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Do Co-op and Condo Boards Have to Reveal Their Plans?

Written by Dale J. Degenshein on March 22, 2019

Midtown East, Manhattan

Courts rule board can approve roof deck, then order its removal.

Approach to capital projects is to do as much as possible.

Shareholders considering a deal to sell out, dissolve co-op.

The Luxury Condo With Bargain Basement Balconies

Written by Bill Morris on April 11, 2018

Midtown East, Manhattan

Board overcomes shoddy construction from last building boom.

Buyers forced to pay maintenance up front, forfeit deposits.

East Side alliance hopes to change zoning law, limit height of luxury tower.

Connaught Tower not liable for secondhand smoke in shareholder’s apartment.

A co-op board’s ingenious way of putting a lid on sublets.

When is it legit to spend co-op funds outside the building?

Maybe it's the sudden change in weather, but June's been an… interesting month for some co-op boards in New York. There was the board that asked to interview a potential buyer's child and another board that instituted a policy requiring tenants to submit their pets to DNA tests to screen out undesirable breeds. Then there was yet another board who attempted to conduct its own criminal investigation until the Queens District Attorney's office told it to stand down. Well, hold on to your hats, folks, because yet another board — this one in Midtown East — is allegedly threatening to enforce "living in sin" rules. Nope, we all haven't traveled through time and space to Victorian England. In this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times, a shareholder tells Ronda Kaysen that not only is the co-op threatening to enforce a rule that dates back to "when such arrangements were viewed as scandalous" but also threatening to do so selectively — which is, of course, a big no-no. Kaysen tackles the first issue — the, erm, "living in sin" policy, and says, "Surprisingly, a handful of states still have laws on the books restricting cohabitation. An unmarried couple living together in Florida, for example, could face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for violating a 19th-century state law." That's good-ole-conservative Florida, but what about New York? Well, according to Thomas P. Higgins, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, a co-op trying to enforce that rule "would be in violation of the state's roommate law, which allows tenants to live with a roommate." Higgins adds that, furthermore, "the battle over same-sex marriage has substantially changed how the courts view an individual's constitutional right to exercise autonomy over personal matters, such as whom he or she chooses to live with." The bottom line is that while a co-op board may earn itself a rotten reputation for demanding you get a DNA test to prove Fido isn't a banned breed in the building, it certainly cannot ever question your relationship with the person who lives with you. "If you decide to move in with your significant other and the co-op gives you any grief, a terse letter to the co-op's lawyer would likely resolve the matter quickly," concludes Kaysen. As for enforcing this or any rule selectively, Higgins says: "Any board foolish enough to threaten to selectively enforce any rule is not getting good legal advice."

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