Renovations in condos and co-ops are common, especially for growing families. Board members inevitably will have to deal with a stream of renovation and alteration requests throughout their seat.
How can a co-op or condo board ensure that construction runs smoothly in its building? Boards should implement construction and renovations policies into the house rules so that shareholders and unit owners agree to the procedures, and understand the limits of what they can and cannot do. These policies must be written clearly and apply equally to all shareholders, unit owners and board members. Construction and renovation policies are a way for the board to fully control the process of any renovations from when they need to receive notice from shareholders and unit owners to ensuring the construction is completed in a timely fashion.
The process of seeking approval for renovations = can and often does include filing the requisite forms, construction plans, the contractor’s insurance, and the size and time-frame of the project with the board. The co-op or condo board’s choice of engineer and architect can then assess the renovations. This should be done regardless of how large or small the alteration is in order to prevent any damage to the building. The board can explicitly require that shareholders and unit owners must have board approval, after inspection from the architect and engineer, before construction begins. However, in regards to repairs, written notice to make the board aware should suffice as opposed to undergoing a review and obtaining board consent if the repair does not interfere with the common elements or structure of the building. How should board members deal with the nuisance of construction? Construction times should be explicitly stated in the house rules so that neighbors are not unduly burdened by the dust and noise.
At the same time, it is important that these rules do not unfairly constrict shareholders and unit owners. A common issue is that board rules prohibit certain types of renovations that are actually legal under the building code. Boards should aim for a consistent track record with approvals and rejections of proposed alterations to avoid conflict and potential litigation for unfair treatment. Additionally, in a city with a large number of landmark protected buildings, it is important to ensure that renovations in New York are mindful of preserving the city’s history. It is also essential that the board and unit owner hire professionals who have experience in preserving and using materials such as limestone and brick. Condos in landmark buildings should ensure their construction and renovation policies have explicit guidelines on how owners can renovate or repair their unit.
Having pre-existing written procedures and rules will expedite the whole process and avoid conflicts and even litigation. Co-op and condo boards have a significant amount of flexibility as to what they can regulate. It is just important to be consistent and fair to all shareholders, unit owners, and board members.