New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Our client was a new condominium board in a recently constructed building that suffered from serious Local Law 11 problems arising from defective construction. We counseled the board to retain an engineer to determine the cause of the cracking in the building’s exterior façade bricks. The cause was determined to be improper construction, contrary to filed building plans, which put extra stresses on bricks. Now, once you find that out, what do you do?

In 1978, Harry and Wanda purchased the stock and proprietary lease allocated to their apartment. In 1979, they had a daughter, Darlene. In 2005, Harry died, and in 2010 so did Wanda. In 2012, Darlene asked the co-op board to transfer ownership to her. The managing agent checked the building's proprietary lease and found that a child of a deceased shareholder had broad rights to have the apartment transferred to herself. The agent confirmed that the stock and lease had been owned by Harry and Wanda and prepared a new stock certificate and lease.

In the process, the agent almost caused an expensive lawsuit that the co-op probably would have lost.

There are many buildings in which apartments are owned by sponsors / investors so that they have a sufficient number of votes to elect people to the co-op board. Thus, we often see situations where the residential board members hold minority positions. Since sponsors can — and regularly do — control boards for a period of years regardless of whether they own many (or sometimes any) units, there is often the question of whether the residential owners are adequately represented.

A large developer was/is building a new condominium building right next to my co-op client. It involves adding more floors and building on the property line between the two properties. All of this came to a head around Christmas of 2011. The developer hoped the co-op board would quickly sign whatever access agreement was presented to it without showing the plans to my client. The developer was also threatening litigation claiming it had a right to install bridging on the co-op's property at the roof level.

The board at one of our co-ops is very split. Board members argue about everything. There was even a problem in agreeing to refinance the mortgage on the property. The co-op board took additional funds from the lender to pay for capital improvements for the next few years. Two of the board members were against it, claiming that the additional money and the additional debt service were unnecessary.

Now, two years later, the president of the co-op (who was president then, too, and a proponent of the transaction) is selling her unit and moving. The two board members who were very much against the refinancing are now refusing to consent to the sale even though the purchaser is well qualified. And wait till you hear their state reason for objecting to the sale.

The New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit organization founded by signer-actress Bette Midler to help add arbor and foliage to New York City, is spearheading a tree giveaway Sunday, Oct. 21, at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx. The effort, in partnership with the City of New York, is part of the MillionTreesNYC initiative to plant and care for one million new trees throughout New York City’s five boroughs by 2017.  

A co-op board learned that a convicted sex offender (and son of a former board president) had moved into the building after being evicted at his former residence. The board wrestled with the issues of the extent to which the board was obligated to inform the building’s other residents, balancing the interests of all other residents against the privacy interests of the individual and his father. 

With the recent economic downturn, condominium boards have been plagued by unit owners defaulting on their monthly common charge. With fewer unit-owners paying, boards are faced with the prospect of increasing common charges in order to collect the deficit from those owners in good standing — unless they can collect the unpaid charges.

Most boards that attempt to collect delinquent common charges are faced with essentially three choices: Enter into a payment plan with the defaulting owner, sue for money damages, or foreclose. But there's a fourth way.

Historically low rates, capital needs and maturing mortgages led many co-op boards to refinance their co-ops' underlying mortgages this past year. A few areas came to light where involving general counsel at the beginning of the refinance process could save a co-op money and affect the timing for locking the interest rate — specifically, requiring closing to occur within 30 days of rate lock. Just what are those areas, and how do they affect you in practical terms?

Being a co-op or condo board member is not for the faint of heart, particularly these days. Virtually all volunteer boards face a number of tough decisions, such as whether to pursue an owner for an assessment balance due, even though his home is foreclosed. And, of course, board members have pressures of their own, such as trying to balance you co-op or condominium budget while worrying about your 2009 college grad who still lives at home working the want ads.

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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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