New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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The board member was angry about a widespread concern: The shareholders in his Queens co-op didn't seem to care much about the issues facing the property. As long as the maintenance remained low, they didn't want to get involved. There was one thing about which some of them were anxious, however: one of the residents was accused by some of being a thief. The angry co-op board member suggested a solution: "Put the thief in charge of the building, and soon, apathy won't be a problem."

In the immediacy of the moment during an apartment-house fire, people can panic. Timely information helps prevent panic. And so in the wake of high-profile high-rise fires, the question of how to get crucial fire information to building residents — whether through Internet- or phone-based systems or through what the industry calls "one-way communication" such as public-address systems in hallways or individual apartments — has become the New York City Council's next burning issue.

And unless that issue's addressed quickly, the desire to mandate life-saving communication paradoxically may cost lives.

More for You to Do: Local Law 11 Adds Balcony Inspections

Written by Jennifer V. Hughes on April 17, 2014

New York City

Now you have to do more. Condo and co-op board members are discovering there is suddenly another layer of scrutiny beyond what they've done under Local Law 11 (LL11) — and it's potentially significant. It applies even if you completed LL11 work in Cycle 7.

Railings on balconies, terraces, roofs and even, in some cases, fire escapes and enclosures must now be inspected for structural safety during LL11 work, or as it is now known, the Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP).

Surprise! Law Finally Mandates Emergency Drinking Water

Written by Jennifer V. Hughes on March 18, 2014

New York City

One of the major problems after superstorm Sandy was a lack of drinking water and water to flush toilets — because of a problem not with supply, but with powering pumps that provided water to upper floors.

Local Law 110, passed in November 2013, requires any condo or co-op over five stories to have an emergency drinking water station accessible by all residents. There must be one fixture for every 100 occupants, and the stations must be installed in existing buildings by 2021.

Local Law 11: A Primer

Written by Frank Lovece on December 31, 1969

New York City

Terra cotta became "terror cotta" on May 16, 1979, when a chunk of lintel broke off from the seventh or eighth floor of 601 West 115th Street, a Columbia University-owned apartment house built in 1912. It crashed onto Barnard College freshman Grace Gold, killing her.

Barnard would rename part of its McIntosh Student Center in her memory, but Gold's tragic legacy reverberated further: The year after her death, New York City passed what would become one of its most widespread, enduring and, for building-owners, toughest and most expensive building-safety laws.

Your first question has a simple answer: yes. Ever since August 1997, when New York Governor George Pataki signed an amendment to the 1964 Condominium Act, condominiums and homeowners' associations have been able to borrow money for repairs and capital improvements. Terms range from 5 to 10 years, with either floating or fixed interest rates. Amortization rarely exceeds 10 years (although I recently arranged a 15-year fixed-rate loan), making every loan self-liquidating over its term. As "collateral," lenders take an assignment of the association's right to collect common charges from the unit-owners.

"What's the old saying?" I asked attorney Bruce Cholst, as we talked about current legal issues. "A man is a fool who…?"

"A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client," Cholst replied immediately.

Worst-Case Scenario: Planning Ahead in Case of a Service-Workers Union Strike

Written by Bill Morris and Jason Carpenter on April 10, 2014

New York City

With an April 20 deadline looming in contract talks between the service-workers union and representatives for New York City building owners, savvy boards and property managers have been preparing for a worst-case scenario.

"You really do have to start preparing early," says Joan Konow, a principal in the management firm Key Real Estate Associates. "You can't wait till the last minute — even though that's what both sides do in the contract talks." Dan Wurtzel, president of the property-management firm FirstService Residential, agrees. "In order to be properly prepared, you have to assume there will be a strike," he says. So what exactly should condo and co-op boards do?

Homeowners often claim that they did not receive notice from the condo / co-op board or management of a delinquency in their common charges or monthly maintenance. Sometimes this assertion comes up after the board files suit against the homeowner.  Fortunately, the "Mailbox Rule" can allow you to overcome this allegation.

Leases of stores in the retail portions of residential condominiums need to be significantly revised from the standard form used by many lawyers. Why? Simply put, a shopping center lease will not work in a condominium context. The boards of condominiums containing retail space should be sure their broker's term sheet and their lawyer's draft lease treats these basic condominium issues.

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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