New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Some people seem to have all the luck. They spend about a month in New York, and rather than pay for a hotel or stay at an Airbnb accommodation, they buy a co-op. You may be asking yourself, "For a month?!?" Well, if money's no object, who are we to judge? But more money — as in "an extra maintenance fee" — is what one New York co-op wants from a resident who spends most of the year in China and just one month in his co-op apartment. Is the building out of line? After all, it seems unfair to penalize a shareholder with an extra maintenance charge simply because the apartment is not his primary residence. According to Brickunderground.com's Ask the Expert column, it does seem "like an unusual request, since [the shareholder] arguably put less stress on the building’s staff and facilities than full-time residents." But it's legit, explain the Brickunderground.com experts, who all added that they've never seen a provision like this one. "If the building has disclosed this potential fee in either your proprietary lease or your co-op bylaws, it’s legitimate." If it's not in the lease or bylaws, this shareholder may be able to challenge by filing a lawsuit on the grounds that the co-op had no right to impose the fee. Who knows? Maybe with a potential time-consuming and costly lawsuit looming over them, the co-op board may be willing to negotiate.

We've looked at the evolution of property management companies. As times change and needs grow, so do companies — by merging and pooling their resources together. For smaller companies, such as Gerard J. Picaso Inc., joining forces with a larger one makes good sense.

But is bigger necessarily better?

No, says Peter von Simson, CEO of midsize New Bedford Management

Governor to Co-ops and Condos: "Yes, You're Included"

Written by Kathryn Farrell on January 16, 2015

New York City

Following up on this week's announcement that Governor Andrew Cuomo would be proposing a tax credit to homeowners whose property taxes make up more than 6 percent of their income, a spokesperson for the governor has clarified that yes, co-op and condo owners are included. "Condos and co-ops are included, exactly the same as if you own a home. [They have] a different rate structure, but that doesn't impact the fact that they still pay property taxes," said Morris Peters, a spokesman for the governor's budget office. The property tax credit, which will affect more than 1.3 million homeowners and 1 million renters, will be included in the governor's proposed budget next week. The goal is to aid households whose income is less than $250,000 annually and whose property taxes are at least 6 percent of that income. Outside of New York City, homeowners who fit the financial qualifications will only be eligible if their communities keep their property tax increase under that cap. As far as renters are concerned, the terms to qualify are slightly different: renters must have an income of less than $150,000 and the portion of their rent attributed to property taxes must be more than 6 percent. According the governor's office, "the total taxpayer benefit from this new proposal will reach as high as $1.66 billion on an annual basis" after four years. 

Why shouldn't boards defer maintenance? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Who can blame boards for not spending money where it's not imperative for them to do so? Gas, oil, and insurance are expensive. Don't get us started on taxes. Certainly, when budgets are tight, it truly is difficult to justify seemingly unnecessary expenses. As for raising maintenance or passing on yet another special assessment, many boards are understandably reluctant to go those routes. Unfortunately, however, when co-ops and condos defer maintenance, they open themselves up to a host of problems — from leaky roofs to bursting pipes — in the long term.

Some key areas where boards tend to defer are plumbing, roofs, and boilers.

What happens when a co-op or condo resident dies, leaving no heirs? Well, for starters, it can leave cooperative and condominium boards in the lurch. We're talking estates that get passed on to the courts and the judges who run them. And if money needed to pay maintenance and usage fees get tied up, solvent units end up in arrears.

So how can boards protect themselves? 

Mayor Bill De Blasio is serious about affordable housing — which is good news for middle- and working-class folks who feel like they are getting pushed out of the increasingly expensive city. But it looks like the mayor's affordable housing plan has ruffled a few feathers. DNAinfo reports that, according to community advocates, "at least 15 community gardens on city-owned property could be bulldozed to make way for new buildings under the de Blasio administration's affordable housing plan." The affected gardens include nine in Brooklyn and six in Manhattan — they were on the list of city-owned sites published by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development this week "that housing developers can apply to build on." At the end of the day these community gardens sit on HPD-owned land, so it shouldn't — and doesn't — come as a surprise that the city needs its property back. But some residents told DNAinfo that what irks them is that HPD has other vacant lots that don't have gardens planted in them that could be used. In fact, one community garden on Saratoga Avenue found itself on the list, "while a vacant site a block away wasn't."

Will co-ops and condos be included?

It's a fair question. Earlier this week, as part of his proposed budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a property tax credit that will affect more than 1 million homeowners and 1 million renters — but was worryingly quiet on whether co-op and condo owners would be affected. 

We're halfway through January, temperatures have dropped, and baby, it's cold outside. It's time to talk about carbon monoxide and Local Law 75.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, most accidental carbon monoxide poisonings happen in January (the second most happen in December). That makes it a good time for co-op and condo boards to remind residents to test their detectors and change the batteries, if need be.

Energy Detective: The Case of the Buried Leaky Pipe

Written by Tom Sahagian on January 14, 2015

New York City

A few weeks ago, my pal Manny, a contractor, came to me with a frustrating problem. A client's co-op was using a lot of boiler makeup water and did not know why. The co-op had already found one leak underneath a first-floor apartment. Then Manny noticed the water meter on the boiler feed line was running backward and recommended the co-op install a new one.

The new meter showed that the leak was still about 70 gallons per day — it should have been more like 70 gallons a year. The number-one suspect was the condensate return pipe that ran under the beautiful lobby floor. 

Never Mind the Windows, A Board Upgrades the Boiler

Written by Tom Soter, with additional reporting by Kathryn Farrell on January 07, 2015

51 Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village, New York City

They would have preferred to have new windows before they got a boiler upgrade, but the seven professionals who were sitting on the board of the 95-unit co-op were not fools about fuel: getting something for nothing trumps a room with a view (even through new windows). Every time.

The saga started when the manager of 51 Fifth Avenue, Ellen Kornfeld, a vice president at the Lovett Group, alerted the board to a program Con Edison offers through its Oil to Gas Conversion Group. Simply put, as long as the building (1) is a qualified property converting from oil to natural gas; and (2) is requesting a "firm" (i.e., the building only burns natural gas) gas connection, the utility will bring in gas from the street to "the point of entry" (essentially, where the pipe connects with the building). All this depends on another factor, as well: whether the pipes in your area have sufficient capacity.

Ask the Experts

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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