New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

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?

Co-op and and condo boards that work with union staff, do check your contract and speak with your attorney before proceeding. As for everyone else, you probably want to know the National Labor Relations Board has just upheld a ruling that says employees on Facebook who discuss plans for insubordination, neglecting rules and undermining leadership are creating grounds for dismissal. As two attorneys write at Lexology.com, the employees in this case described their planned action "in such detail that a reasonable employer would reasonably refuse to take the risk of waiting to see whether the employees would act on the conduct they so artfully advocated."

The lawyers caution there's no guarantee the NLRB will always agree with the employer in such cases — but it's notable that this particular employer supplied the NLRB with screengrabs of the conversations. When, oh, when, will people learn that Facebook isn't private. Why, I think we should tweet about that right now....

The client’s tale: One of our co-op buildings has an investor who owns more than 50 percent of the outstanding shares, often called “unsold shares.” The co-op and investor agreed that at elections, holders of unsold shares would “elect one less than a majority of the members of the board of directors” — in this case, two members of the five-member board — so they could not take control of the co-op.

In an attempt to run the board, the investor sold the shares allocated to two of its apartments to friendly parties. The investor defied the election agreement, and three investor-supporting board members were voted in. The investor was in control of the co-op.

Michael Mintz and Dawn Dickstein, formerly of FirstService Residential New York, have teamed to form MD2 Property Group, a real estate company that provides management, consulting and investment services in the rental, cooperative and condominium markets.

"After more than 12 years in New York City property management, we recognized that the industry suffers from overstretched managers and support staff who are not compensated commensurate to their responsibilities, contributing to high turnover," explains president and co-founder Dickstein. "This turnover makes it virtually impossible to deliver consistent, quality management services. At MD2, strong performers have the opportunity to become stakeholders in the company. This structure allows us to attract and retain better talent, making all the difference in the level of service we provide."

Dickstein has more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of the management business, most recently as a managing director for FirstService, where she oversaw a portfolio of close to 5000 units. MD2 CEO Mintz has spent his entire career in real estate, including in management and acquisition, and has guided buildings through major capital projects. Their offices are at 6 East 39th Street in Manhattan.

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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