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26 Feb 2016
Does your Co-Op have puppy fever?

We New Yorkers love our pets.  However, our buildings and fellow residents may not feel the same way.  There are quite a lot of “pet friendly” buildings in New York City, but even “pet friendly” buildings are likely to have some rules and regulations governing their non-human residents.  Some buildings even conduct interviews with prospective tenants’/owners’ pets.

In the world of pet regulation, there are, of course, extremes:  buildings that allow no pets whatsoever and buildings that have no policies or restrictions.  Others allow certain types of animals, or set limits on the number of pets.  Consider dogs, one of the more common types of pets.  A building can limit nearly everything from breed types, size, fur, demeanor, age, etc.

When it comes to size, many co-ops and condos take their cue from the New York City Housing Authority, which limits pets to 40 pounds when fully grown, while others take a more restrictive approach and limit pets to 10 pounds and under.  In addition to restrictions based on the size, number, or type of animal, building policies may also include fines for pet misbehavior, or a cleaning fee if a dog relieves itself in the common areas or on the sidewalk in front of a building, which residential buildings are required to maintain by law.

In terms of official documentation, typical co-op/condo pet policies include proof of city licensing and up-to-date vaccines, and pet collars and tags with the name and phone and apartment numbers of the owner.  Some buildings required a signed and notarized document stating that you understand and agree to the building’s pet rules and a “security deposit” that covers cleaning if your pet soils a common area.  The building may also keep your pet’s photo on file.  Less common but still possible are buildings that require proof of obedience training or specify “pet only” washing machines and dryers for pet owners, who might have allergy-inducing animal fur and dander on their clothes and linens.

It is important to be aware of your building’s rules, unless you want to end up facing more serious legal trouble.  A building can serve you with a notice terminating your lease if you don’t get rid of your “unapproved” pet and depending on the wording of the lease, you may even get stuck with the building’s legal fees if the matter ends up in court.  In addition, if you own your unit or are a shareholder in a coop, your failure to disclose the existence of a pet can be considered fraud and would entitle the building to rescind its consent to your purchase.

There is some good news.  In 1983, the city passed a law allowing residents in most buildings that don’t allow pets to keep a pet if: (1) it hasn’t been concealed over a three-month period, and (2) no lawsuit is filed during that time.  If the landlord fails to commence the proceeding within that time frame, the right to enforce the building’s no pet rule is deemed waived and a resident cannot be evicted for violation of the building’s no pet/dog rule.

How can you be sure that your prospective new rental, condo or coop building will allow your furry, feathered or finned friend?  Just ask.  Check with your real estate agent or broker, or ask the building’s management or managing agent.

19 Feb 2016
Buying a Co-Op?

If you’re thinking of buying an apartment in a building with commercial space, or if you’re on the board of one choosing a commercial tenant, you’ll need to evaluate them in terms of nuisance factor, revenue potential if the building is a co-op, and curb appeal.

If managed properly, your building’s maintenance charges are offset by the income received. While the argument can be made that any income is good income, the type of commercial tenant does matter–particularly to buyers considering an apartment right above a commercial space. Always review the co-op’s policies on choosing who they will and will not rent out retail space to. There’s certainly an upside to retail space, but what’s right for others isn’t always what’s right for you!

Here’s a list of some typical commercial tenants that occupy space in residential buildings and the pros and cons of each.

1. Banks

Banks are a big retail favorite. Short hours, low traffic and ability to pay the rent make these tenants highly desirable!  Another big advantage…they typically don’t need to do any extensive alterations when they move in.

2. Restaurants and Bars

All restaurants are NOT created equal. A nice restaurant can add panache, and depending on the restaurant, you may appreciate the ease of take-out. However, a fast food restaurant may just devalue your building. Having a restaurant at the base of your building may sound like a grand idea, but consider the cost. Noise, hours and possibility of rodents along with other pests might make life difficult for you. Those however, are just the obvious objections.

Restaurants require air duct and ventilation that a bank or shop wouldn’t need, which can be costly to the co-op. Noise and smells can be a problem and when the restaurant stays open late, you might be kept up late. The co-op can limit these operational hours in the lease agreement.  Just make sure to read the lease and other building documents before you buy that unit!

3. Retailer

Just like restaurants, which retailer is key. A high end retailer will attract a different kind of attention to your building than a discount store.  Mom and Pop stores may go out of business and leave the co-op strapped for cash.  Also, find out beforehand if deliveries are going to block access to the residential lobby.

4. Grocery Stores

Sure, it’s great to have a place right in your building where you can pick up milk and eggs on your way home, but may come with some of the same problems that a restaurant would–long hours, noise and possible unwanted pests.

6. Dog grooming/doggie day care:

Being able to drop your dog off in the building on the way to work has a similar appeal to the convenience of dropping your kid off in day care in your own building.  Although, if your building has a no pet policy, this may not be a real option.  Additionally, disposal of dog waste can be a major issue.  Make sure the co-op addresses this specifically and strictly in the lease.

10 Feb 2016
Whose bill is it anyway?

Knowing who has the responsibility to pay for various expenses can be tricky in a cooperative or condominium building.  Typically, the basic rule is: if you own it, you maintain financial responsibility for it.  Everything within the walls of a unit is the responsibility of the owner of the unit or the shares referable to that unit. 

However, the question of financial responsibility for repairs becomes more complicated when issues arise within the walls themselves.  For example, let’s say that there was a pipe leak within a wall that caused damage in your unit.  The cost of repairing the leaking pipe and the resulting damage may be covered by the condo or co-op, but that depends on a few variables. 

As with any question of responsibility, whether legal or financial, check your building’s governing documents, which should have been provided to you when you purchased your new apartment or in the case of a co-op, the shares referable to your apartment.  It may be necessary to consult with an attorney, as language in these documents can be antiquated and full of legalese. 

            Also, the location of the leak and the type of pipe may determine the responsible party.  If the leak occurs at the termination point for your apartment, you will most likely be responsible for repairing the damage.  Conversely, let’s say that a pipe that services multiple units ruptures in a wall.  In that scenario, the co-op/condo would, in most cases, be responsible for repairing the pipe and walls; unfortunately, the building is not usually responsible for replacing your damaged belongings.  The presence of a tenant complicates the issue further.  While a unit owner or shareholder can file a claim for damaged personal property with their homeowner’s insurance policy, unless your tenants maintain their own rental insurance, they may be forced to bear the costs of those damages themselves, or enter the world of litigation.

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