New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Selling your super's onsite co-op or condo apartment to shore up your building's finances ... good idea or not? Let's get the answer out of the way, since it's the reasons that are the most interesting and informative: No. And while, of course, there may be circumstances where this would work, they're rarities. Why? Because, as writes in its latest "Ask the Experts" column, there are union issues, sales / renovation cost issues and even New York City red-tape issues. Also New York State issues, since co-op share allocation can come in. Also a tax issue and ... well, why not read it and get the details for yourself?

One of the nation's highest-grossing real-estate brokers, Creig Northrop Team, which is affiliated with the Long & Foster Companies brokerage, has been receiving kickbacks from the Lakeview Title Company, according to a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, The Real Deal reports. The suit alleges that Creig Northrup received $1.3 million between 2001 and 2014 to steer unwary buyers to Lakeview. Additionally, it charges that  under an “employment arrangement” that required little or no work, executive Carla Northrop was paid half of the title insurance premiums charged to home buyers referred by Northrop. The defendants have yet to answer the complaint. And while these companies operate in Maryland, this is a warning to buyers everywhere that, as the article notes, "Under federal law you are free to shop for title and other services."

Board members often have to be convinced of the importance of taking the minutes of meetings, as we discussed in a previous "Spotlight on" last week. Once it’s understood how valuable a resource good minutes are to buyers, sellers, and future boards, the next question is: Where do we start?

Despite New York State's property-tax inequities being widely acknowledged, both Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City Mayor Bil de Blasio have moved to dismiss a class-action lawsuit that contends single-family homeowners get preferential treatment over both renters and co-op and condo owners. reports that according to the Citizens Budget Commission, the owners of one-, two- and three-family homes paid 15 percent of the city's property taxes in fiscal year 2014, though they comprised 46 percent of the city's real-estate value. The lawsuit, the website noted, found that the landlord's tax burden for an $800-a-month studio apartment in The Bronx is $2,880 — close to what de Blasio pays in taxes on a million-dollar Park Slope townhouse. posted Schneiderman's filing here and de Blasio's filing here.

Any co-op or condo board or their managing agent who needs to put up scaffolding or a sidewalk shed — which is to say, everybody — as well as those doing energy alterations, those putting a cell-phone antenna on the roof, or those using Directive 14 when allowing residents to combine apartments, among other things, now can find the relevant New York City Code and zoning regulations at the click of a keypad. The Department of Buildings has created an online tool to help people navigate the labyrinth of laws in order to more quickly obtain a permit.

A New York couple, fashion designer Anya Ponorovskaya and lawyer Wylie Stecklow, got "married" in a symbolic ceremony in Mexico in 2010. They had no marriage license, and their officiant was a dentist who got his minister certification over the Internet. Still, the couple referred to themselves as married on the purchase contract of their Manhattan co-op apartment and on a mortgage application.

So when the relationship didn't work out, Ponorovskaya last year filed for a very non-symbolic and for-real divorce. Why? Perhaps because the apartment is titled in Stecklow's name alone — even though, Ponorovskaya says, she invested significant money and "sweat equity" in its renovation. What the couple's co-op board thinks of all this, the lawsuit Ponorovskaya v. Stecklow doesn't say. As for what the judge in this recently decided case thinks of all this, you can read law professor Joanna L. Grossman's wry but learned column about it at

A house divided against itself can stand, actually, in the case of a couple's divorce — transferring ownership to one or the other is relatively easy in the allocation-of-assets part of settlement negotiations. Not so when a couple owns a co-op, writes Ronda Kaysen in The New York Times, since a co-op board has to be involved. This means you not only have to prove that you're divorcing — and, yes, sleazy sorts have tried to gain ownership of a co-op by claiming such to credulous boards — but the remaining spouse has to prove he or she can afford the mortgage and maintenance, requiring a sort of re-admission review. And there are lots more questions to consider, including a perennial for those innocent souls who will also be affected: What will you tell your doorman? No, seriously, he's got to know if the other spouse can still go up or needs to announced.

Most divorcing couples who own a co-op or condo apartment generally handle the breakup with a certain amount of decorum, observing legal requirements and civility and, hopefully, moving on with their lives. Then there are the kind who forge signatures on documents and much, much worse. Condominium and co-op boards caught between dueling soon-to-be-ex spouses need to watch out for behavior you might not expect or even believe, and to take nothing for granted.

From the first inklings of marital discord that surface as screaming matches in the lobby to the protracted endgame where couples divvy up their apartments, co-op and condo and boards are often caught in the middle of divorces. In one recent case, a co-op board president received a note from a shareholder warning him that her husband might try to forge her signature on documents. A short time later, the husband delivered doctored transfer documents to the board for approval. In another case, a small condominium in the Flatiron District couldn't collect maintenance fees from a couple for more than a year while the two sparred over finances from abroad.

The property shared by a divorcing couple is invariably a bone of contention. To avoid getting caught in the middle of a dispute over who has rights to use the apartment, co-op and condo boards should get any requests in writing and have them reviewed by the building's attorney. For example, if a wife tells the board her husband is no longer allowed to enter the apartment, she should send a written request with supporting legal documentation.The building's lawyer may respond with a letter saying the board will attempt to honor a request if it is supported by a legal position. But unless there is a restraining order, the building cannot bar a shareholder whose name is on the apartment title.

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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