New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

Whether you're an ordinary apartment-buyer or a mogul looking to invest in a $50 million co-op or condo, New York City real estate is unlike real estate anywhere else in the world. And given the nature of New York — where a bike messenger and a millionaire can be standing in the same line for coffee — it's not surprising that the same rules for buying real-estate apply to both kinds. BusinessInsider.com recently listed five pretty good rules for apartment-hunters in this rare city with more co-ops than condominiums. As it notes under #3 ("Research the Building and Developer"), "Knowing whether the co-op rules might change to no longer allow pets or if there are plans to completely redo the lobby (requiring you to pay a large monthly assessment) could sway your desire to live in the building." Yeah, but not about living in the City. (Illustration by Jane Sanders)

Without adequate preparation, keeping your building in shape can become an expensive headache. But if a building is properly pointed, with solid coping, good flashing and a reasonably flawless roof, waterproofing compounds and sealants are unnecessary. The best method to keep your property in shape is regular examination. Here's a general overview of what to do.

A READER ASKS: I live in a prewar co-op with an old electrical system. Fuses blow regularly, even when running light appliances such as a toaster or an iron. How does the board determine if the building as a whole needs to upgrade its electrical system or if the problem lies within the individual apartments? And who is responsible for the cost of the upgrade?

A READER ASKS: At the last annual shareholders meeting, the board president announced that the market value of our building has gone up, and now everyone's shares are worth ten percent more. Hooray! Except that, after the meeting, I and a couple of neighbors realized we have no idea what that means for is. Is it just a point of pride, or something that we as shareholders can use?

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 BrickUnderground.com 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. CapitalNewYork.com 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. CapitalNewYork.com 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 Justia.com.

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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