New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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One man, they say, can change history. And in 2003, David Pullman did just that, lending his name to the precedent-setting court decision in 40 W. 67th Street v. Pullman. 

Financial professional Pullman — who'd already made headlines working with David Bowie to package the singer’s copyrights and catalog into what he trademarked as “Bowie Bonds” — had a documented history of ranting, raving and circulating defamatory fliers about various perceived transgressions at his Rosario Candela prewar classic. He pushed the co-op board and the shareholders to their limit, and then some. Finally, in a landmark turn, 100 percent of the shareholders voting in a special election, representing 75 percent of the shares, agreed to kick him out. The subsequent court case upholding that action solidified New York State co-op boards' nuclear option: eviction for "objectionable" behavior.

The landmark court decision in 40 W. 67th Street v. Pullman (2003) set the precedent that fully established that New York State co-op boards could, within certain criteria, evict shareholders found to be "objectionable." Many jocularly call this "the nuclear option," and it should only be used as a last resort. There are options boards can take before circumstances reach that extreme point. 

But if you do need to pull a Pullman, how do you go about it?

As the second storm of the week hit New York City and its environs, some managers say calcium chloride, or sidewalk salt, is in short supply. "We are running out," said Pamela DeLorme, president of Delkap Management, based in Howard Beach, Queens. "We bought a few thousand bags before the season began, but with the frequent storms, the substance is now in short supply." Delkap obtained about 2,000 bags of salt two weeks ago.

A co-op board I represent was confronted with the problem of bedbug infestation in several units in the building. A few individual apartments had become infested with bedbugs, but never notified the board, the managing agent or their neighbors. Because these unit-owners did not properly remedy the bedbug situation, it spread to other apartments.

An apartment in the 22-unit Manhattan co-op where I am board president recently reported the possible presence of bedbugs. Before the board members could schedule an inspection, the tenant-shareholder in the possibly infested apartment told us he was already taking action: At the same time that he notified the board, he also apparently had scheduled an exterminator to come in and deal with the bugs. No chemicals involved, either: He was going to put on the heat, literally. And faster than you can say, "Flame on" (or so it seemed to me), a big generator, with tubing coming into the second-floor windows, was sitting outside our building, with hot air being pumped into the apartment.

A recent appellate division decision held that the Business Judgment Rule does not protect individual condominium and cooperative board members from some personal tort liability. And New York's public policy of not permitting insurance coverage against the intentional acts of the insured should raise alarm, especially when combined with other recent actions such as the flood of frivolous claims of discrimination by rejected purchasers and the increase in shareholders and unit-owners demanding access to therapy pets for alleged depression.

Providing heat is one of the biggest expenses for your cooperative or condominium. In this second Teachable Moments column to look at condo and co-op boards' options for switching from fuel oil, three experienced property managers tell you much of what you need to think about when you're considering such a changeover. And some of it's not the conventional wisdom.

Local Law 84 of 2009 mandates that New York City buildings larger than 50,000 square feet must record and track their energy and water use, with the grades made public. This allow you to see how well your building is doing and how it compares with other buildings. But energy experts say there are still kinks to be worked out: The data is not always accurate and it's difficult to access.

No condominium or cooperative board wants to restrict its residents' ability to work with brokers they choose; indeed, some argue that this would be illegal restraint of trade. Yet some brokers are problematic, creating needless issues for boards to deal with, from selling apartments at cut-rate prices, lowering all residents' equity, to simply being a pest who bombards residents with unwanted e-mail. So what can a condo or co-op board do?

Defending your cooperative or condominium association in a lawsuit can be costly and time-consuming, and may hinder your board's ability to function effectively. Your condo or co-op board of directors is required to respond and defend the association in all lawsuits filed against it, regardless of the merits of the claims. Yet simply responding to a lawsuit and getting the court to dismiss it can cost the association thousands of dollars. For these reasons, all lawsuit should be taken seriously and avoided if possible. There a number of steps your board can take to reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit, or minimize the damage should a suit be filed.

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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