New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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I served for 25 years as the president of my co-op board (and hope to serve on the board again, perhaps). We are a 20-story, 339-unit cooperative building located in the Riverdale section of The Bronx, with a diverse cross-section of people. In my quarter-decade of service I learned many things, but one of the most important was to be flexible. What do I mean by that? Rules are important. Generally speaking, they must be enforced. But wise condo and co-op boards can and should know when to make exceptions. Over the years as president, I learned when to do that.

As someone who actively litigates collections and lien foreclosures on behalf of community associations, I can offer some lessons that may be of benefit to condominium boards, which historically have a hard time colleting from homeowners in arrears on their monthly charges.

For a building with more than one elevator, urge residents to stagger their commute schedule so the only operating elevator isn't overloaded at 8 A.M. Residents should also avoid renovations or work like carpet cleaning during the upgrade. Some boards go so far as to restrict renovations entirely during an elevator repair project.

Every co-op and condo board dreads telling homeowners that elevator replacement or repair is upcoming. In buildings with just one elevator the weeks or even months of hard climbing and inconvenience is especially difficult, but it's hard even for co-ops and condos with multiple elevators, what with all the noise, clutter, workers and longer wait times. Earlier articles in this series have looked at how condo and co-op boards can help ease the burden, and how residents themselves can help. Our final suggestion: Smart scheduling of elevator use, spreading peak-time loads around. How is that even possible? Like this.

The co-op admissions process seems like it should be a straightforward affair: The seller gives the admission package to the buyer, the buyer completes it, management vets it, and the board reviews it and then says "yea" or "nay." Yet even the simplest procedure can become complicated where co-op boards are concerned. (Condo admissions are another story, since condo boards have little power to reject new buyers, short of buying the unit for the association.) That's why boards may want to follow a schedule.

Once a buyer's package has been greenlighted by the manager's transfer department, it is delivered to the co-op admissions committee and, absent that, the board itself. (In self-managed buildings, it is up to the seller to manage all the logistics, including hiring a lawyer as transfer agent.) A copy of each package is distributed to every board member, with confidential information, such as the social security number, redacted. Some distribute this data electronically. The admissions committee should spend a week to ten days before giving their recommendation to the co-op board.

For E. Cooke Rand, a co-op board member at a 48-year-old white-brick building on East 84th Street, his board's initial decision to install a gym "was made conditionally, to explore the idea — what would be entailed, what all the equipment would be. We had a subcommittee of the board, three people, who did the bulk of the work and kept reporting to us — doing all this exploration to see what it could cost and whether the space was suitable. The process wasn't getting together one night, making a decision, and turning it over. We consulted through the managing agent and directly with knowledgeable architects."

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, FEMA extends the filing deadline for homeowners, including co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners, applying for grants, some nervous neighbors at a co-op jump to conclusions, and a condo-owner has an overhead problem in the form of a heavy cell-phone tower. Plus, for co-op and condo boards, the tax-abatement renewal bill has passed the New York State Senate. Now will it get through the Assembly?

The New York State Assembly, in the wake of the Senate last week, has restored the expired tax abatement that was created with the intent of equalizing tax burdens between co-op / condo owners and standard homeowners. Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) announced today the passage of the legislation.

This year, resolve to cut your costs and properly fund your reserves. Oftentimes delinquent dues and bad debt will create cash-flow problems for your cooperative corporation or condominium association. Collections and liens can be costly and hard to retrieve as well, and as board members and property managers, you are expected to consistently look for ways to cut expenses. Here are a few areas in which condo and co-op boards can gain more control, resulting in cost savings.

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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