New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Forget snooty boards. You might instead find your attempt to buy a co-op stymied by the fact the building has a doctor's office. Wha?

As's "Ask the Experts" column reveals, a little-known lending hurdle involving Fannie Mae rules may kill a sale. In one case, the culprit is lenders misinterpreting one of those rules. Good to know. The other instance is a little more complicated and concerns whether the office is technically part of the co-op. While the article erroneously refers to co-op loans as mortgages, and doesn't go into condos and actual mortgages, it does offer possible solutions in things you can do and places to which you can turn. And that could be just what the doctor ordered.

A READER ASKS: For the last year, my board has been trying to figure out what to do about a super who has, in our opinion, not been doing his job. He has many allies among the shareholders because he does favors and side projects for them. One of those allies is a board member, who we believe tipped him off about our plans to fire him. The super, to safeguard his job, has gone on disability, and the board member is trying to unseat the current board at the upcoming annual meeting. Several longstanding board members can’t take the pressure and have announced they’re not running. Can I tell the shareholders that a board member leaked information to the super about confidential board discussions? And can I also disclose that the board member and some others on his slate are paying the super on the side to do work on their apartments?

How Boards Can Deal with Residents Who Repeatedly Break House Rules

Written by Lewis Montana, Levine & Montana on November 03, 2014

New York City

The client's tale: A 130-unit garden-style co-op had a house rule that generally prohibited pets and banned feeding wild animals on the common grounds. A shareholder’s spouse loved to do just that, attracting feral cats, raccoons, and other wild creatures. The presence of the wild animals was most annoying to several of the nearby residents, who were also concerned about animal excrement and the threat of rabies, among other things. The managing agent and I sent many letters to the shareholder requesting that the spouse stop feeding the wild animals. Fines were issued. 

The client’s tale: The co-op board started hearing rumors that many buildings were terminating their relationship with their managing agent and that many of the agent’s employees were quitting.

The board started to get a little nervous, but it received management reports and had a certified financial statement from their accountant for the last calendar year. After a few months, the board decided that even if the accounts appeared to be fine, it didn’t want to be the last building managed by this seemingly troubled agent. 


May 8, 2014 — Now you have another six months.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced a further six-month extension for superstorm Sandy victims who carry the federal government's Standard Flood Insurance Policy. The deadline for filing an updated "proof of loss" form — a statement on the amount a co-op or condo apartment owner is claiming under his or her flood-insurance policy — was already extended once to April 28, 2014, and has now been extended to October 29, 2014. The extension applies to losses from Sandy flood damage that occurred between October 25 and November 6, 2012.

Why Boards Should Never Ignore Formalities

Written by Phyllis H. Weisberg on November 19, 2014

New York City

The client's tale: A condominium board had instituted litigation against the sponsor. The sponsor moved to dismiss, claiming that the board did not have the authority to act. The court, in analyzing the facts, found that the board had clear statutory authority to institute litigation, but held that because the board had not adhered to the proper procedure — it had not called a meeting to authorize the litigation — it did not have the authority to file suit. As a result, the suit was dismissed.

Who knew a park bench could cause so much distress? That's the case for residents of a co-op building on Park Avenue who are up in arms after a delicatessen in the adjoining building placed park benches on the sidewalk outside the store. Ronda Kaysen's latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times answers the co-op resident who is wondering why the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) bounced the building's complaint to the Department of Transportation (DOT) — which has not responded. Kaysen explains that the DCA regulates sidewalk cafés, and a deli with a couple of benches outside is not, regardless of how the disgruntled co-op residents feel, a sidewalk café. And it looks like the building residents are going to have to bench their annoyance. It turns out DOT probably won't be sympathetic to their plight. The organization plans to install 1,500 benches around the city by 2015 as part of its new CityBench program. Kaysen points out that although the deli's benches are not part of the CityBench initiative, DOT will probably let them sit where they are, as long as they aren't in the way of pedestrians. 

Baby, it's (getting) cold outside. Excel Bradshaw Management Group has released a video breaking down heating regulations for residential buildings in New York City so that co-op and condo boards can make sure residents are kept warm all winter. Mark B. Levine, vice president of business development at EBMG, explains that the winter heating season runs from Oct. 1 to May 31. During the daytime, from 6 a.m.–10 p.m., apartments must be kept at or above 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the temperature outside dips below 55 degrees. During the nighttime, from 10 p.m.–6 a.m., apartments must be kept at or above 55 degrees Fahrenheit when the temperature outside drops below 40 degrees. Many co-op and condo buildings actually keep their indoor temperature settings a little higher than 55 degrees during the night, adds Levine. Good call. To make sure building residents aren't turning into popsicle sticks, you can either alter the heat cycle the boiler is moving though, or you can adjust the entire system if the boiler works off sensors within the apartment. You may remember an article that ran in The New York Times that suggested laws related to "quality of life" did not apply to condominiums, but there's a caveat. Levine explains that while it might not be the letter of the law, New York City law still applies to condominiums that provide heat to the entire building, especially if common charges fund the boiler. Check out EBMG's video here

For most co-ops, the question of whether to get contractor bids or refinance first is not quite the "chicken or egg" question it initially seems to be. The typical cooperative usually can support enough new debt to cover almost any major repair.

Alternately, insistence on signed contracts for all work before entering the mortgage market is overkill. A range of bids from several legitimate contractors should be sufficient to help you estimate the likely cost (plus contingency) of each planned project. The resulting total will be close enough for most lenders.

A READER ASKS: My neighbor put her unit in our condo up for sale, but the board is trying to buy it from her instead of letting it go to any broker’s client. Why are they doing this? Can they do this without any repercussions?

HABITAT ANSWERS: What happens when a condominium board exercises its right of first refusal — to reject an applicant and purchase a unit up for sale itself? As long as the board meets the asking price of the seller, there is usually nothing more that's involved: A unit goes up for sale, a potential buyer is rejected in favor of the board buying the unit and the sale is completed. So when and why might this take place?

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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