New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Tapping the Family Market with a Playroom

Written by Vivian Lee on December 04, 2014

New York City

When we think of co-op or condo amenities, we tend to think of fitness centers, bike rooms, storage facilities, and garages. But one amenity that nobody should overlook is the playroom. Here we review why, as well as the protections your building will need to have in place.

Take a look at the numbers. How many children live in the building? If your building has experienced a baby boom, the number could have jumped from 3 to 25. Even if you have only a few kids, a playroom is a solid investment. It's the perfect space to host classes for toddlers and stage other activities. Parents can also rent out the playroom for birthday parties and play dates or use it on rainy days.

A basement storage facility can be a double-win for building owners. It provides co-ops and condos with a new source of income at relatively little cost, while offering building residents a desirable additional service. However, it can also be a source of problems, if you don't plan carefully.

Not long ago, the rat situation at an Upper West Side condominium got so bad residents who would return home late at night would walk in the middle of the street. According to one of the condo's board members, rats would be scurrying back and forth from the tree wells and running around people's ankles.

The board member, who asked to remain anonymous because of the stigma associated with rats, was involved in several local community groups. Therefore, she knew about the city's Rodent Academy program — or Rat Academy, as it is often called. Started in 2009, the program offers a half-day course on how to identify rat infestations and what to do about them.

A READER ASKS: A shareholder in our co-op has moved out and now has a subtenant living in his unit. This subtenant went through all the proper co-op application channels, including signing an appropriate sublease. Now this subtenant wants to bring in an unrelated roommate. Can the board require the roommate to go through the same application process as the original subtenant, or is the original subtenant covered under the New York Real Property Law (RPL) Section 235f allowing her to bring in her own roommate? I know the law applies to tenants. Does it also apply to subtenants?

A Board Learns Why It Should Oversee Its Managing Agent

Written by Eric M. Goidel on November 17, 2014

New York City

The client’s tale: A managing agent for a New York co-op neglected to pay water and sewer bills for one of three water meters for several years. While performing an audit, the holder of the property’s mortgage discovered the problems and shortly thereafter received an in rem notice from the New York City Department of Finance. As a protective measure, the mortgage-holder advanced payment of the water bills with accrued interest and penalties. It then sent several letters to the managing agent requesting reimbursement. The agent ignored the letters.

You're on the board of a 74-unit co-op with 600 windows, which, the shareholders say, need to be replaced. What happens if, when you are finally ready to tackle the project, you discover it's going to cost an estimated half a million dollars? How do you proceed? Here we review the pros and cons of five standard options so the task doesn't feel as daunting.

What happens when you want to sublet your co-op to short-term renters for a month or two at a time? In the latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times, Ronda Kaysen sets a shareholder who wants to do just that straight. While the law may "allow you to turn your apartment into an extended-stay hotel," she explains, the co-op board might feel quite differently. Renting an apartment for fewer than 30 days violates state law, but few co-ops allow shareholders to sublet their apartments for short periods. You have to read the fine print on that proprietary lease carefully — it may include provisions against short-term leases. Even if it doesn't, you still have to get through the approval process. Since boards typically meet once a month, it may be weeks before a prospective tenant is approved and by then they will have probably found another place to crash without all the red tape.

It may be a few more weeks until winter arrives, but it looks like snow may be arriving, well, now. No time like the present, then, to review New York City's snow removal rules for buildings within its boroughs. Mark B. Levine, vice president of business development at Excel Bradshaw Management Group, explains that New York City’s Department of Sanitation requires snow to be removed no later than four hours after it's done snowing, or no later than 11 a.m., if it was done snowing after 9 p.m. the night before. In EBMG's latest video, Levine offers tips on how to deal with snow in case it can’t be removed because of packed ice or other conditions. Buildings are allowed to place down cat litter, ice melt or anything that provides traction. Don't shovel snow into streets ever, warns Levine — it's illegal. And remember: Safety first! So keep hydrants clear at all times. Not complying by these rules can subject buildings to fines ranging from $100 to $350, per infraction. Check out EBMG's video here.

Why Completion Dates on Renovation Projects Matter

Written by Dennis H. Greenstein on November 26, 2014

New York City

The client's tale: A co-op board contacted us for advice regarding a major alteration of an apartment that was well into the second year of construction with no apparent end in sight. The neighboring shareholders were complaining of the noise, disruption of services, and odors arising from the unit and insisted the work be stopped.

We asked for a copy of the alteration agreement and found it to cover everything, but noticed that the completion date for the construction was left blank.

No matter how quickly a lobby renovation is completed or how cost-effective the project was, someone is bound to be unhappy with the way it looks, the cost and how long it took to finish.

What may seem down-at-the-heels to one shareholder may seem like the Ritz to someone else. Ask realtors if sales are suffering because the lobby is turning people off. Get consensus from everyone that it actually needs to be renovated.

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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