Living By the Rules House Rules and Your Building

All communities, be they nation-states, municipalities, or co-op or condo buildings, have rules. Respect for -- and adherence to -- these rules is essential for many people to coexist peaceably in the same communal space. In the co-op and condo setting, rules come in two forms: bylaws and house rules.

Bylaws concern the procedural requirements for operation and governance of the cooperative corporation or condo association. These include stipulations and parameters for elections and meetings, as well as determinations on who has authority to act on behalf of the board and shareholders -- to hire someone to fix the elevator, say. Bylaws also define the relationship between shareholders and the co-op or condo association.

House rules, on the other hand, are less technical, and involve primarily quality-of-life issues. They are easier to amend -- but harder to enforce -- than bylaws, and are at the root of many conflicts a board may encounter.

Lawrence F. DiGiovanna, the current president of the Brooklyn Bar Association and an attorney with his own private practice in the borough, puts it this way: “House rules are a code of conduct; bylaws are an operational guide.”

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12 Comments

  • We live in a cooperative that has a house rule that allows shareholders that have lived here prior to 2006 the right to own dogs...weather they currently own one or not....upon permission from the board.We moved in after that date, and have requested in writing to the board, permission to own a dog. We have been denied. We started a petition to overturn the house rule on dogs, and currently have more than half of the shareholders signatures in our favor. Can this petition be presented to the board to overturn the current house rule? What are the procedures and how can we move forward, our current board operates a dictatorship and they tend to ignore shareholder requests.
  • I know Electric is included in my Common Charges and I do my best to conserve energy. I pay monthly for air conditioners. I remove my air conditioners from October to April. Why must I pay all year for this? And is this rule legal do I have to just agree and pay?
  • i think all these rules are ridiculous. it is like buying your way into a communist home. why spend all that money to buy a condo with stupid rules like cant put certain blinds up and every condo window has to look fluid with one another. what has our society turned into... smh
  • Can I keep a kayak on my porch (horizontal/covered-not easily visible). Coming-up house rules will say "no". The area where other kayaks/boats are kept (and cannot be observed) has been vandalized and things have been stolen. My kayak cost me $350.
  • I only have a question. Who does have the authority to modify the by laws?
  • Tell us what we can do with an HOA resident who gets drunk, staggers in the halls late into the night and annoys and creates trouble in the common areas.. Thanks,
  • WHAT TO WHEN THE BOARD TREATS A VISITING SERVICE DOG LIKE ONE THAT IS REQUESTING TO MOVE IN. IT WOULD TAKE A WEEK OR A MONTH TO BE APPROVED BY THE BOARD. THIER ANSWER IS I SHOULD KNOW AHEAD OF TIME EVEN FOR AFEW MINUTES.
  • Are the bylaws and the house rules considered to be equally legal documents?
  • What is the best argument for not allowing food to be delivered (unaccompanied) up the main elevator?
  • Very helpful article. Thank you.
  • Can a kayak being kept in a rack on the roof of my car in my carport be forced to be removed by the association when there is no suitable alternative location provided? Thank you, Doug
  • I have the same question regarding how to amend the by laws/house rules to allow dogs in my coop. I need to know what steps need to be taken to overturn no dogs allowed. thanks