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Precarious Co-op Rules

Real Estate Legality, Real Property

Every co-op has a body of rules governing the building and the shareholders. These include the building’s by-laws, the proprietary lease and the house rules. However, in under some house rules, shareholders are expected to follow peculiar provisions such as only being able to move into their new unit from the hours of 9:00am to 4:00pm on all days except Sunday and holidays.

Locks on Doors

It is common to see a provision in the house rules regarding locks and security devices on the premises. Typically a shareholder cannot change the locks on the door providing access to the apartment unless they give duplicate keys for the locks or combination codes for other security devices to the co-op in case of an emergency or for repairs. Pursuant to New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, shareholders are permitted to install and maintain an additional lock (such as a deadbolt or chain lock) as long as it can be opened from the inside with a thumb-turn and outside with a key.[1]

For doors providing access to water valves and plumbing fixtures, shareholders typically must also provide a set of keys to the co-op in case of an emergency or for repairs. These requirements rarely cause tension, however, what if the house rules stipulate that the co-op must also have access to bedrooms locks? Although it seems evasive, the house rule actually abides by New York’s occupancy laws. All interior doors (including fire escapes) in an apartment must be easily accessible in an event such as a fire. For privacy, shareholders can install push locks that do not require a key to open from the inside. It is unlikely that a co-op board will go to each unit to examine the locks, however, it is important to follow these rules in case of an emergency or if the Department of Buildings conducts a fire safety investigation.

Restricting Construction on Religious Holidays

Co-ops will require that all construction in the building is in accordance with all Federal, State and City regulations and codes and usually to be conducted from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays, except for holidays. However, can a co-op restrict construction on every holiday for all religions, even if they are not commonly observed among shareholders? Essentially, yes, as long as there are enough days in-between holidays to carry out the work. “Conceptually, rules restricting work are generally not in observance of any particular theological mandate but are ‘quality of life’ regulations in recognition that on certain days many residents may be home and … wish to be free of the noise, vibrations, dust and other disturbing byproducts of construction work.”[2] Co-op boards need to be clear when construction can and cannot occur and ensure that the rules do not discriminate against any particular faith.

Every building has different rules, but they are all meant to be in the best interest of the building and to maintain health and safety. It is important to review a building’s governing documents before purchasing a new apartment to ensure that your interests are compatible with the board’s. When conflicts arise between shareholders and the co-op board it is essential to communicate any concerns early on to avoid litigation.

[1] New York State Multiple Dwelling Law Section 51-c; Building Code Title 27, Subchapter 6 Means of Egress §[C26-604.4] 27-371 Doors. (2)b.

[2] Meisel, Elliot. (Aug. 2016) “Q&A: Can a co-op board restrict outside contractors from working on a religious holiday?” The Cooperator New York. Available at: https://cooperator.com/article/qa-losing-my-religion.  Accessed on Dec. 1, 2017.

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