New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



It's a New York tale told more and more frequently as the economy and the real estate market continue to rebound. A buyer in a 26-unit co-op in Tribeca decided to make extensive renovations on his new home before moving in. The co-op's board of directors gave the green light, and work began.

A year later, it was still going on. And with it, the disruption. The dust. The contractors. The noise. Cut to: two years later. The work was still going on. The contractors. The dust. The noise.

The patience of shareholders was wearing thin, so the board checked the shareholder's alteration agreement to find out when the work was supposed to be completed.

Illegal residents, whether long-term tenants or night-by-night, Airbnb-style guests, are one of the most problematic issues for condo associations and co-op boards. They can be difficult to identify and document, but have unfettered access to your building and to other residents. There's no way for a board to know, for instance, whether an under-the-radar renter is a sex offender or has a criminal record. Think we're exaggerating? Here two veteran property managers offer their real-world experiences.

It happens more often with co-op buildings, but the occasional golden opportunity sometimes arises when a condominium association can buy, perhaps fix up and then sell an apartment and reap the profit. Yet aside from all the same issues a co-op board faces in terms of  pricing the unit properly for sale and deciding whether to use a broker, as discussed in past articles in this series, condominiums have their own specific issues that, when properly addressed, need not be obstacles.

Last year, a rent-controlled tenant approached the co-op board of her building with a welcome proposition: If the board would buy her out, she would leave, and they could sell the apartment for a handsome sum. "She got a big pile of money, and we will get an enormous pile of money," says Carl Tait, president of the board at 152 West 58th Street, near Central Park. When all is said and done, this 33-unit co-op will clear $600,000 in tax-free cash. The building is currently under contract with a buyer for $950,000 for the two-bedroom apartment.

Many co-op shareholder and condominium unit-owners like to use electronic banking to pay their bills, a method commonly known as ACH, which stands for Automated Clearing House. ACH credit transfers include direct deposit payroll and vendor payments. Wouldn't it be great, though, if there were a system that let you pay your maintenance or common charges with a credit card? Some feel that's more convenient than writing a check — and you could earn bonus points or airline flight miles. Many say they'd be only too happy to pay for the convenience of it all.

For a condo association or co-op board, nuisances take on all shapes and sizes, and the word "nuisance" doesn't even do the issue justice: These are quality-of-life and even health and safety concerns that involve the place your residents call home. Here, two veteran property managers give two real-life, practical responses to two common nuisances: hoarding and excessive noise from an apartment — with the latter covering an interesting additional issue.

Many buildings end up in possession of a vacant unit when a rental occupant moves out. With rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments, this often happens only when the tenant dies. However, if conditions are right, the building could negotiate with a willing occupant to leave under sunnier conditions, leaving a cooperative or a condominium association with an apartment it can then sell. But those negotiations can be tricky. Rental regulations provide strong protections to a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized tenant, who will often want a sizable severance price, especially if the apartment is in a desirable neighborhood.

When a co-op board sells a unit that it's acquired by a rental apartment's vacancy, you must wear two hats: one as the seller and the other as the discerning board carefully reviewing a potential shareholder's financial dossier. Just because a board enters into a contract with a buyer doesn't mean the board has relinquished its right to reject the shareholder.

After two devastating North Atlantic storms in two years, heavily hit insurance companies are becoming increasingly cautious. What can co-op boards and condominium associations expect in the coming months in terms of rates and coverage? Habitat spoke with independent insurance broker Michael Spain, third-generation head of Long Island's Spain Agency, for his views on current trends.

Is it a matter of perspective? Or, in the end, does it matter if you see the other guy's point of view?

Those are the questions I pondered as the management executive talked with me about her relationship with a client as though it were a partnership made in Hell. "I've given up trying to reason with the boards," the executive said. "Now, I just do what I'm told — only drawing the line at illegalities."

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?