New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



How would you like to make sales dry up in your building? Or guarantee you'll lose every challenge to your authority as a board? What if you couldn't charge assessments, collect flip taxes or go after people who were in arrears? Nutty, right? Well, not so nutty if you're one of those condo or co-op boards that don't keep minutes.

Very soon there will be no more No. 6 heating oil. By June 2015, buildings in the city will not be able to burn the smog-producing fuel. Lots of buildings have already switched to cleaner-burning No. 2 or No. 4 oil, or to natural gas. But there are plenty of buildings where co-op and condo boards are still wrestling with what to do next. If your cooperative or condominium is one of them, which path is right for your particular situation?

Rising insurance rates might be unavoidable, but there are steps condo and co-op boards can take to keep control of runaway rates and prepare for the unavoidable increases. Here are three simple steps every building should contemplate.

A bill has been introduced in New York's City Council that would substantially impair a co-op board's rights to approve prospective apartment purchasers. 

On very short notice, a hearing on the bill — Int. No. 188 — has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 30, at 1 p.m. We understand that the bill is being strongly supported by the real estate broker community. However, we recommend and encourage you and your fellow co-op board members and managers to promptly reach out to your City Council representatives and express your views in opposition to the bill.

Portions of the New York State Labor Law were enacted to protect workers injured on construction projects. They allow an injured worker to sue the owner and general contractor even if they did not cause the accident. (One part of it is Labor Law 240, colloquially called "Scaffold Law.")

Under the provisions of Labor Law 240, if a worker injures himself in a fall the cooperative (but not the shareholder) may face liability for a claim. Accordingly, all construction projects at co-ops should anticipate a personal injury lawsuit and devise a plan. Proper planning involves adequate insurance coverage and indemnity agreements. These obligations should be set forth in the contracts entered into with the contractors, and in the alteration agreement.

Most co-op boards know about Labor Law 240 in the context of renovations on buildings. This is the law that makes owners, contractors and their agents liable for injuries to workers who fall from a height. It is also known as the "Scaffold Law." However, falling from a height can include a wide range of causes. It can include when a worker stands on a box to install a light fixture and falls. Most shareholders would be surprised to learn that it can also apply in some instances to renovations in their apartments.

Leaks are not a minor issue in New York City. In 2010, field crews for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection responded to 4,403 total leak complaints citywide, nearly 80 percent of which were deemed to be private service lines. In response, the DEP and the private company American Water Resources (AWR) recently launched of the Water and Sewer Service Line Protection Program for smaller residential properties throughout the city.

One piece of the insurance puzzle that hit many co-op and condominium boards hard in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy was business interruption coverage. Some residents balked at the idea of paying maintenance fees while their building was rendered uninhabitable. In some cases, insurance policies covered maintenance fees for the displaced residents. In other cases, the policies provided no such relief.

To try to avoid unethical behavior by co-op and condominium board members, attorney Steve Wagner, a partner at Porzio Bromberg & Newman, suggests the board create and make members aware of its code of conduct or code of ethics. This includes a series of ethical promises: no kickbacks, full disclosure of any connection with the vendors, no self-dealing, and so on.

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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