New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Along with taxes and, for co-ops, the underlying mortgage, energy costs are possibly the single biggest non-discretionary budget item. You have to heat your cooperative or condominium in cold weather, keep the lights on in common areas and power everything from smoke alarms to garage gates to swimming-pool filters. There aren't a lot of corners you can cut here — but that doesn't mean there's no way to save money. Our latest Teachable Moments column offers some tested, real-world strategies by three longtime property managers who have found it doesn't take a lot of energy to save on energy.

In most co-op and condo buildings, supers, porters, doormen and other staff members receive two different sources of extra income at the holidays: a year-end bonus from the board and cash tips from individual residents. What should a board and staff expect of residents when it comes to tipping staff?

Primarily that different residents' financial situations differ. 

The process of terminating the super begins with what is colloquially described as "writing him up." This can take a relatively short or relatively long time. "Documenting incidents is key," says Nadir Maoui, vice president of a 150-plus-unit co-op in Sunnyside, Queens, that recently fired its superintendent. The board spent almost two years preparing a list of offenses. "We went from [oral] warnings to write-ups with the union, and we went as far as suspension," Maoui explains. "If you go for union arbitration with no [prior] warning [to the super] whatsoever, the first thing they'll ask is to give him a chance. You have to show you gave him warnings and can't deal with him anymore. Otherwise, it's your word against the super's."

The Logistics of Buying and Installing a Backup Generator

Written by Jennifer V. Hughes on December 12, 2013

New York City

With superstorm Sandy still fresh in our minds, and scientists predicting more such extreme weather in times ahead, many cooperatives and condominium associations are considering installing a backup generator to provide at least some basic electricity and water functions when power goes out due to flooding, ice storms, blackouts or even terrorism or vandalism.

Refinancing an underlying mortgage loan is the most important decision a co-op board can make during its tenure. A refinancing affects not only the monthly maintenance but also the market value of every shareholder's apartment. It is a decision that should be based on thorough and careful analysis, not impulse. There are six essential steps.

A change in the processing of the New York State School Tax Relief (STAR) program may cause nearly half of New York City's homeowners, including co-op shareholders and condo apartment-owners, to miss an average $280 property-tax break due them.

For the first time since the STAR exemption was enacted in 1997, homeowners under 65 years old who are already enrolled are now required to register with the State in order to continue receiving it. Previously, enrollment was automatic so long as the taxpayer continued to own the residence. As the Dec. 31 registration deadline approaches, 53 percent of City homeowners have registered, compared to 66 percent statewide.

Two months ago, I wrote about the difficulty of getting the Department of Buildings (DOB) to send an inspector to our small, 22-unit cooperative. The problem: Contractors remodeling a commercial space were working without any posted permits. It should have been simple to solve: Send a DOB rep and shut it down.

Nothing is ever simple with New York City, however.

One of the biggest concerns for co-op boards and condominium associations alike is securing sufficient revenue without charging residents more than they reasonably can handle. Yet more often than one might think, extra revenue can materialize simply by scrutinizing accounts already in place — whether it's making sure your commercial rents are being calculated properly or finding that your building's electricity bill is too high because some apartment are freeloading off the building's juice. In this latest installment of our Teachable Moments series, two veteran property-management pros relate their personal, firsthand experiences with just this kind of cash-flow scrutiny.

Residents' evolving needs and changing legal requirements often present a co-op board or condo association with a daunting task: amending your governing documents. A well-crafted amendment that complies with applicable law is the obvious objective. Developing this amendment document itself is generally the easy part of the amendment process if the board is represented by an experienced co-op / condo attorney. More frequently, the hardest parts of amending governing documents are getting the homeowners' attention, marketing the amendment to them and obtaining their approving votes.

Here are four questions to ponder if your board is proposing to amend its governing documents:

A condominium or cooperative's relationship with the building's superintendent is vital. He, and in rare cases she, is the caretaker of the property, the person who deals with emergencies and the one who meets with contractors, city officials and inspectors. The super often does private work for residents, and in larger co-ops and condos supervises the staff and oversees projects. 

Yet as with any relationship, sometimes things don't work out — and letting a super go can be as hard as any other breakup. You don't want it to be a cold Dear John letter, but you also don't want it to be Tiger Woods.

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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