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24 Jun 2016

Now that you’re on the board, Residents rely upon you to make good financial decisions on behalf of the entire community and protect both individual and collective assets, in addition to having an understanding of reserves, budgets and accounts payable. It’s desirable for all board members to have at least a passing knowledge of the various components of their community’s financial profile to adopt best practices when it comes to oversight and transparency where money is concerned.  However, the member of the board upon whom this responsibility falls directly is the treasurer.

At the core, a treasurer is responsible for the origin, utilization, custody, and supervision of funds.  The treasurer is accountable for the handling of funds, ensuring their safety and providing approval of funds as and when required. In addition, the treasurer needs to make sure that each expenditure is according to the budget and approved by the appropriate parties.

Further, a treasurer has to keep a vigil on the funds and see to it that the treasury is not in the red when it comes to balance. This entails, in part, the preparation and presentation of periodical financial reports on the basis of expenditures and savings. It also involves the collection and keeping track of cash receipts, management of secured credit, debt financing and repayment, and anticipation of future needs.  Ultimately, a responsible, diligent treasurer will keep your building’s finances healthy so that you are able to deal with unexpected expenditures, which are almost a certainty in any building.

17 Jun 2016

All co-op and condominium boards and managing agents must adhere to rules and regulations clearly spelled out in the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) Building Code, Electrical Code, Zoning Resolution, New York State Labor Law and New York State Multiple Dwelling Law.  Yet, the requirement to adhere does not guarantee compliance, and violations of these regulations are common.  Some of the most cited co-op and condominium violations include improper repair to masonry and walls, obstruction to entry and exit ways, working without a permit and failing to comply with elevator inspections.

While most buildings take steps to maintain their property, remain in compliance with these regulations and avoid liability, a part of the building that gets checked can still fail for any number of reasons and officials are keeping a consistently watchful eye, through regular inspections and those that result from complaints called in to 311.  If an inspector finds something wrong, a violation is written against the building, even if the fault belongs to an individual unit owner or shareholder.

DOB violations run the gamut from Class 1 (Immediately Hazardous), Class 2 (Major) or Class 3 (Lesser). Some violations are considered minor and “fixable” without fines.  However, there are other, more serious violations classified in a particular category and class that do not have a cure process.  For example, if a building receives an immediately hazardous (Class 1) violation, it must, as soon as possible, correct the violating condition and submit a Certificate of Correction to the DOB.  Failure to correct the violation will result in issuance of an additional violation with a $1,500 civil penalty.

A violation that is not resolved beforehand often ends up before the Environmental Control Board (ECB) on a pre-calendared hearing date. The ECB is an independent administrative tribunal where administrative judges hear cases and determine whether to issue a fine. Thirteen different city agencies, including the DOB, write “quality-of-life” tickets and file them with the ECB to be adjudicated. An ECB decision may be appealed, but the appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the original ECB decision.

In many cases, especially during construction, a building or property may receive numerous code violations. Normally, every citation carries a maximum of $10,000 per citation.  However, in the case of multiple citations, a lower stipulated penalty offer can be reached through a mediation process.

It is important to note that simply fixing the violating condition does not resolve a DOB violation.  Until all fines are paid and a Certificate of Correction approved, the DOB will consider your building’s violation to be outstanding.

10 Jun 2016
Maintaining the Meeting

Monthly board meetings can drag on for hours, making it seem like an exercise in time-wasting.   They can also get rather tense.  Board meetings in every building – small and large – get out of hand.  Issues become heated when money is at stake and different people have different opinions on how to spend it.

Boards, unit owners and committees can improve the quality and productivity of their meetings very easily with a few simple guidelines.

1. Give Appropriate Notice to Allow Time to Prepare

The law says that owners need to have a 48-hour notice before a meeting, but most management companies give everyone a full week whenever possible.  One of the most common problems that slows down a board or committee meeting is a lack of preparation.  Board members should be given all the information about the meeting and everything that has to do with the meeting at the earliest date and time possible. As it is the board members’ obligation to the building to do more than show up at the meeting, each board member should be review all materials prior to the meeting.  Additionally, a reminder to review everything would not be amiss.

2. Communicate

Clearly explain the rules and the agenda for the meeting.  If certain requests need to be submitted in writing, make sure that the members know this before the meeting.  If it is not appropriate for members to voice their objections, let them know the manner in which they can be heard and when they will be heard so that nobody feels squeezed out.  To the extent possible, allowing a span of time to discuss “new business” will provide an opportunity for owners to address new topics or concerns.

3. Set an example: Follow the Rules

Don’t ignore the rules because you’re a small building, or because you hold a ranking position.  If you’re on the board, setting the example is key.  Others will follow your lead if you derail the conversation for the agenda.  During the meeting, it’s very important that the secretary take good minutes so that each topic can be followed from meeting to meeting. This saves time at subsequent meetings so that no time is wasted patching together previous meetings from memory.

03 Jun 2016
Lookout Below: Falling Debris Kills

As children, most of us often heard the old adage “look both ways before you cross the street.”  Sage advice, to be sure, but what if the danger you face comes from the front of a building and not a moving car?

Not all buildings are made with tidy brick walls.  They can have rather unique indentations, angles and extensions, from terraces and cornices to stonework, including sculpture, nevermind the ever-present window a/c units and television antennas that are prevalent throughout our urban cityscape.

In order to regulate exterior walls, Article 302, Maintenance of Exterior Walls, mandates inspection of a building’s exterior walls, including appurtenances, done by a design professional on behalf of the building’s owner.  The person inspecting should physically test all items that are affixed to the exterior walls and the roof.  Any item that may fall off the exterior or be blown off the roof should be removed immediately.  Following the inspection, a report must be submitted to the Department of Buildings within 60 days of the inspection.  Unlike the Façade Inspection Safety Program, which only requires buildings greater than six stories to undergo regular façade inspections, the regulations pertaining to maintenance of exterior walls apply to all buildings. A failure to do so may result in violations and additional enforcement by the DOB.

Any unsafe conditions reported must be corrected within 90 days.  A new report must be submitted within two weeks of the 90 day deadline.  While building owners can get an extension of up to 90 days, they can only do so by order of the building commissioner.

What can your building do to ensure code compliance and safety?  Stay on top of weather alerts, especially those involving high winds.  Building staff should be generally aware of any items that may pose a problem in a high wind scenario, like furniture on a terrace or roof deck.  Building staff should also keep an eye out for and inspect items like improperly installed a/c window units and attachment connections for any element that is affixed to the surface of the building.  Typically, any items such as a sign or other element that needs to be secured to an exterior wall or a roof should be designed by an engineer licensed in New York State.

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