New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

There are a number of steps that a co-op or condo board can take to protect itself from a bad contractor, and which a board would be wise to follow when hiring anyone to do work on the property. Here are four primary steps you can take to minimize your downside when a disgruntled incompetent files a contractors' lien against you. 

A READER ASKS: Board members are becoming concerned about the resale value of the units in our building. We have some unused common space, and a few shareholders have presented the idea of incorporating a garden or some landscaping. We're not sure it's worth it. What can we expect if we do decide to take on such a project?

Lots of articles offer advice on how to prepare for your co-op board admission interview: what to wear, how to act, whether to bring the dog and kids. In the ever-expanding annals of this service subgenre, BrickUnderground.com offers a handy list of standard questions and, even better, the well-thought-out reasoning for why you want to answer them in certain ways. Of course, board members reading this will know you're doing that — but you know they know you're doing that, and they may not you know they're doing that. But even if they do know, you know they know you know they know you're doing that. And you know what? If you've gone to the trouble to learn this and do that, they'll probably respect you for knowing all this.

They arrive at all hours of the day and night with duffel bags and rolling suitcases, asking for the keys to Apartment X, which are in an envelope at the desk. You suspect the apartment is being used as a transient hotel, but the condo unit-owner or co-op shareholder claims the visitors are just out-of-town friends and relatives. So what can a condo or co-op board do? It's not as though there's a law against hospitality or having a wide social circle, so you figure your hands are tied. Or are they?

Two New York State legislators yesterday called for an investigation of what they term deceptive insurance practices on the part of Airbnb, the apartment-sharing giant that critics, including co-op and condo boards, say helps apartment-dwellers violate laws on short-term rentals and most cooperative and condominium bylaws regarding illegal hoteling.

New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Assemblymember Francisco Moya sent a letter to the State Superintendent of Financial ServicesBenjamin Lawsky, to ask that his office investigates "the possible illegality of the home sharing company Airbnb with respect to potential violations of the state insurance law."

While side jobs often save residents money and line supers' pockets with extra cash, the situation isn't always a win-win. Instead, the arrangements create an array of potential problems for a co-op or condo and must be handled carefully, according to building managers. 

Meet George Jetson, board president of Skypad Apartments. As a busy office worker — why, some days he has to put in as many as two hours and press the button three times! — George can't always make it to board meetings in person. That's why he relies on 3D holographic virtual-reality Skype to attend and discuss the latest building improvements, like new jetpacks for the super and handymen. Yet even in our mere 21st century, holding board meetings via Skype is possible, depending on the language of your governing documents, according to BrickUnderground.com's "Ask the Experts" column. And hey, it's better than having a board member miss a meeting. Or using FaceTime.

The super may be every building's go-to guy, but you may not want him working on everything. Nonetheless, old habits are hard to break: Co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners generally rely on them for help in doing everything from changing a light bulb to renovating a kitchen, work that's generally outside the scope of the job.

The biggest problem is that if a super doesn't have his own insurance for such side jobs, the building is liable for any problems that occur during the work. Even using the building's tools or ladder could make the cooperative or condominium a party to the lawsuit. In fact, insurance companies and lawyers frown upon the practice of side jobs since it comes with such liability.

What is the optimal time to sell your co-op or condo apartment? When you're ready to move somewhere else? No! For a surprisingly large number of people, reports TheRealDeal.com, it's when your neighbor has just sold his or her place for beaucoup bucks and raised the sales-price benchmark — because there's an inventory crunch right now, the article says, with more people wanting to buy apartments than there are apartments to sell, driving prices up. And in neighborhoods with new buildings that are about to begin sales, a contributing factor is existing owners deciding they'd better unload their places before there are a plethora of apartments in the pipeline.

Your new managing agent wants to get familiar with your staff, but finds no reference letters or much else in their files. So the agent suggests to the board it might be prudent to do belated background checks, since without them the building's families will never know of potential dangers until, perhaps, it's too late. But you're reluctant, since you don't want to create bad feelings, or give the impression you don't trust the staff. And anyway, it's a union building, and background checks on existing staff aren't allowed. Or are they?

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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