New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



A BUYER ASKS: I have an opportunity to lease a storage bin in the basement of my co-op. It's much cheaper than an equivalent space at commercial storage facility, but with an outside facility I know I have certain rights in case the contents of my bin get damaged by, say, flooding — an issue that doesn't come up with a commercial facility if I get storage on a floor a few stories up. What are a co-op's responsibilities in terms of storage bin liability?

Once you start down the path of buying or selling an apartment, it's inevitable that you'll hear horror stories from well-meaning friends about their own ill-fated excursions and The Deal That Got Away. Getting rejected by the co-op board is always a popular one. But as writes in an eight-point article, you might also find yourself the victim of a buyer or seller backing out at the last minute, or a higher bid coming in at the last minute, or several other things that can make you want to fast-forward past that last minute and wonder why last minutes even exist. But if you know what to expect, maybe you can prepare for and even avoid such swerves. And if not, hey, at least you'll have horror stories for your friends.

The neighbors thought the smell came from rotting human remains — that's how bad the odor was that emanated from the locked apartment. An anxious co-op board ordered the super to break in and, to everyone's relief, it was only a cat —  one that, apparently, had been left unattended for some time and had been using the entire apartment as its litter box.

Median prices for Manhattan condominium apartments have increased more than 55.4 percent over the past decade, from $804,000 to $1.25 million. Townhouses have spiked less, rising just 33 percent, but the dollar amounts are way higher: $2.7 million to $3.59 million. Ah, but with a townhouse, there's no condo board, and no one telling you that you can't lease a portion of the place, so there's potential rental income to help offset the higher price tag. And you save on the monthly common charges, though you might well find yourself spending about the same on upkeep. Condos, on the other hand, have apartments above street level, which are generally safer and quieter, and often amenities like a gym or a roof deck. And there are subtler points to consider as well — all ably delineated by Leigh Kamping-Carder in "Ask an Expert: Condo or Townhouse — Which Is A Smarter Buy?," the latest installment in's weekly roundup of authorities on various subjects.

Here's a scary scenario: Sales take a nose dive in your condominium because potential buyers fail to qualify for mortgages. Or worse, existing unit-owners are unable to refinance their mortgages or take out home equity loans. With mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tightening lending rules, condos are bumping up against hefty reserve requirements that, unless met, will kill deals.

Housing discrimination against gays, lesbians and other LGBT people might be expected, sadly, in some other parts of the country. But in New York City in 2014? It still happens enough that at least one real-estate broker, Tama Robertson of Coldwell Banker Bellmarc, has made such clients her specialty. And as a married lesbian who had faced co-op board discrimination herself, she empathizes. As one client says of her in The New York Times, "We were both speaking from a common unspoken understanding that the most important thing was to be in an open and affirming neighborhood."

Alan Gorelick, the former executive vice president of the Manhattan property-management firm Saparn Realty, pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing $2.6 million from approximately 30 buildings he used to manage. He was convicted in Manhattan Supreme Court of second-degree grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument and scheming to defraud.

For those in landmarked districts or buildings, tales of endless paperwork and stacks of forms can stop a board from doing needed renovations. But as with all things historical, time has a habit of changing things — even in the workings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Early last year, the LPC changed the way certain applications were submitted and reviewed, and released a document outlining the streamlined process and offering assistance with filing an application. What does this mean for condo and co-op boards?

Habitat talked about this last year in a story about how co-ops and condos all have unwritten rules about the privacy of your building's security-camera footage, key-fob data and other standard electronic measure — and how unwritten rules are dangerous and prone to abuse. It's a lesson that never gets old, as attorneys Dean Norris and Jeffrey Reich reiterate in the latest installment of's "Ask an Expert" column: "Who's Allowed To Watch My Building's Security Camera Footage?"

How do you cope with living between your co-op board president and your co-op board treasurer without accidentally getting yourself evicted? Pretty easily, according to the pseudonymous Pamela, writing in’s “Living Next To” column. Although the standard complaints arise — noisy dogs and, ahem, “recreational” smoke — the writer admits that living near the co-op’s authorities does have perks, like no riotous parties or unauthorized renovations on her floor. Guess the pros outweigh the cons in this situation.

Ask the Experts

learn more

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

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?