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Privacy Limitations in Co-ops and Condos

Real Estate Legality, Real Property

Are there limits on privacy for residents living in co-ops and condos? Yes. Living in a co-op or condo requires residents to make compromises for the interest of the building. In case of an emergency, repair or inspection, the board and building staff are permitted to access apartments. Where do co-op and condo boards get this authority? There will be provisions in the building’s governing documents typically requiring residents to permit access into their unit for the purpose of making necessary repairs or improvements required by law or for the purpose of inspection or of showing the unit to a prospective purchaser. New York law will require condo owners and co-op shareholders to comply with the by-laws of their building, and therefore permit board access into their apartments. Who is allowed in? This will also be provided in building’s governing documents, but generally the board, its agents and authorized workers.

As we have previously discussed, the board will require residents to provide a key for access to the front door, and for any doors providing access to water valves, plumbing fixtures and fire exits.[1] The board does not have authority to enter into a resident’s apartment without prior notice and consent or in case of an emergency. So how can co-op and condo boards avoid conflicts and tension when accessing apartments? They should have clearly written protocols that address when the board and other authorized personnel can enter apartments. When possible, boards should provide a written notice to residents explaining when a repair or inspection is to take place to allow residents to make proper arrangements (i.e. for supervision). When is notice not applicable? In cases of an emergency, governing documents will grant immediate access to authorized personnel. What constitutes an emergency? Gas leaks, fires, and substantial water leaks.

If a co-op shareholder or condo owner refuses access to the board and its agents for a repair or in an emergency, they could be liable for any damage, including damage in neighboring units. Boards should keep a record of any refusals of access for repairs or inspections in case the issue is brought to court. To avoid this avenue, the board and resident should communicate their concerns. If a resident wants to be present at the time of the repair or inspection, find dates that work for both parties. At the same time, the board cannot abuse its power. Residents need to report any unauthorized access to either the management or the board.


[1] Guzov, LLC. (Dec. 1, 2017) ”Precarious Co-op Rules.” Available at. http://guzovllc.com/precarious-co-op-rules/.

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