Law & Legislation

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Precedent-Setting Legal Cases

By Elizabeth Kaufman

Condo and co-op communities are governed by an array of legal mechanisms, including state and local laws and the community's own governing documents. Governing documents such as the proprietary lease, condo declaration, bylaws, and house rules cover most issues that arise, but when it comes to handling less-common legal disputes and litigation, condo and co-op attorneys quite often look to decisions made in previous disputes to either support their claims, or to counter the claims of the opposing party.      Read More

Residential Leases Now Require Sprinklers

By Adam Leitman Bailey

Effective December 3, 2014, all residential leases in New York State now require a notice to residential tenants about the presence of absence of sprinkler systems in the “leased premises.” Read More

Neighborly Neglect

By Danielle Braff

Bad neighbors are something that everyone living with shared walls fears—and not without cause; co-op or condo, small or large, chances are there's at least one chronically objectionable person who seems to do his or her level best to annoy, thwart, and agitate his or her neighbors, and otherwise disrupt the peaceful functioning of the community. Read More

Going Overboard

By Debra A. Estock

Condos and homeowner associations have made headlines over the years for passing all kinds of overreaching and downright silly rules and regulations—everything from forbidding the flying of the American flag to having prohibitions about hanging laundry outdoors, to discriminating against their own residents—even stopping kids from playing ball or riding their bikes in their own yards. It might sound like something out of a political satire, or items from a humorous 'News of the Weird' newspaper column, but these stories of some boards going too far are true, and we've collected some of the silliest, most unusual or most outrageous HOA rules ever passed. Read More

Housing Development Fund Corporations

By Leni Morrison Cummins

Mayor Bill de Blasio says that New York has “a crisis of affordability.” According to the mayor’s ten-year housing plan, his administration is committed to “build or preserve nearly 200,000 affordable units” throughout the five boroughs. Mayor de Blasio calls for a “bold approach to increasing and protecting the supply of affordable housing,” but while noble, no measures have yet been implemented. Time is of the essence, though, for a certain breed of affordable housing—Housing Development Fund Companies (HDFCs). Read More

Preventing & Dealing with Construction Defects

By Jonathan Barnes

Many people believe in the ethos of 'reduce, reuse, and recycle'—they buy vintage clothing, pre-owned cars, or refurbished electronic equipment. But most of us also like brand new things, including homes. And with markets across the country rebounding from the economic meltdown of the recession, new homes are becoming an option for more people and the lure of Wi-Fi, designer name appliances and other state-of-the-art finishes can’t be ignored. Read More

What You’re Getting Into

By Elizabeth Lent

Few things can raise one's blood pressure like signing a big contract. That can be especially true for board members or managers signing sometimes mammoth contracts on behalf of a co-op or condo association, obligating their neighbors, friends and themselves to page after page of fine print. Thankfully, there are more than a few ways to get things properly signed on the dotted lines, and it all starts with ensuring a very thorough vetting of the contract in question. Read More

New York Supreme Court Rules on Right of First Refusal

By Joseph Burden

In an apparent case of first impression, on February 25, 2014, Justice Anil C. Singh of the New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff—The South Tower Residential Board of Managers of Time Warner Center Condominium—holding that the board could elect to exercise its right of first refusal to purchase a condominium unit and then designate a third-party as its nominee to take title to that unit, so long as the exercise of the right of first refusal benefits the condo unit owners. Read More

Legal Tales!

By Keith Loria

It's probably no surprise that no matter what field of law they practice in, attorneys have some pretty good stories. (The volume of television shows and movies devoted to lawyers and legal procedures may be one indicator of this.) Read More

Avoiding Lawsuits

By Lisa Iannucci

I Love Lucy is one of the most beloved sitcoms in all of television history. In one episode, after Little Ricky is born, the baby is screaming and screaming, keeping awake the next door tenant, Mrs. Trumbull. Mrs. Trumbull complains to landlord Fred Mertz, demanding that he do something about it. According to Mrs. Trumbull, the building rules state that babies aren't allowed. Okay, it's a rental building...and it's a sitcom, so of course everything turns out all right by the end of the 30 minutes. Mrs. Trumbull even ends up loving Little Ricky and becoming his babysitter. Read More

Avoiding Legal Blunders

By Anne Childers

Much like corporations and charity organizations, condos, co-ops and HOAs across the nation are helmed by groups of residents who volunteer to serve their communities, and who are elected to their post by their neighbors. This is of course the case in New York, where hundreds of thousands of residents live in either co-ops or condos across all five boroughs. Given how driven, results-oriented and particular city denizens can be, it's perhaps not surprising to find many individuals volunteering for board positions in their communities. Read More

2014 Legislative Roundup

By Liam Cusack

A quote often attributed to the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck in the mid-1800s says something to the effect that laws are like sausages—it's better not to see either of them being made. It's a clever quip, and it's not entirely inaccurate, but the truth is that if you serve on the board of your condo, co-op, or homeowners association, or if you manage any kind of multifamily community, you should have at least some awareness of the laws and legislation affecting you, your neighbors, and the residents you serve. This awareness not only enables you to do your job better, but it can help save your community money by planning in advance, avoiding fines, and keeping compliant with emerging regulations. With the state legislature is in session in Albany once again, there are many housing bills on the agenda. Some of them deal directly with co-ops and condos, while many more impact all types of housing, including co-ops and condos. Read More

Voting by Proxy

By Bruce A. Cholst Esq.

When it comes to decision-making in your building, attending meetings in person Read More

Lessons from SuperStorm Sandy

By Adam Leitman

Most buildings in flood zone areas already maintained flood insurance as a result of lender requirements and therefore were covered by Sandy. The biggest surprise was those persons who use their homes as home offices or the building rents out office space and maintained business interruption insurance only to find out that business insurance only kicks in only when involving a covered peril such as a direct hit from a flood. For example, a unit owner is without utilities for several weeks and cannot work. Because the unit owner’s office is high in the sky it never occurred to him or her to obtain any insurance beyond the basics. During and after Sandy, most insurance companies denied any coverage as a result of the loss of utilities as business interruption insurance requires that a direct hit or covered event before business interruption applies. So those that lost their utilities because the utility companies’ lines were cut before the storm were out of luck. Read More

Put That In Your Pipe

By Robert Silversmith

The only thing more aggravating than having a pipe burst in your co-op in the middle of the night may be the question of "Who is responsible for the repair?" The proprietary lease generally governs who is responsible, and different leases will have different language. It seems easy, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case.      Read More

The “Sushi Defense” Gets Cooked

By Robert Jacobs

In a stunning decision that has wide-reaching application to the scope of review to be used by appellate courts throughout the State of New York, the Court of Appeals has overturned an errant decision of the Appellate Division in a hotly contested “non-primary residence” case. Under the Rent Stabilization Law, an otherwise protected tenant who does not occupy his or her apartment as a primary residence loses the right to continued occupancy and can be evicted at the expiration of the lease. Read More

Setting House Rules in ‘No Pet” Buildings

By Adam Leitman Bailey

Increasingly, those who manage residential rental, cooperative, or condominium apartment dwellings in New York are learning they must walk a fine line in setting house rules that govern the ownership and acceptance of animals in their buildings. Landlords, volunteer board members of cooperatives and condominiums, and the managing agents of buildings can no longer maintain or implement house rules that unqualifiedly ban all animals from the premises. Persons with disabilities who require a service, therapy, or emotional support assistance animal to support or assist their physical and/or emotional needs are protected by federal, state, and local antidiscrimination laws, and, to ensure compliance and avoid liability, buildings with a “no pet” policy must adapt their rules to the laws’ requirements. Read More

This Isn’t Right!

By Keith Loria

Private homeowners can do pretty much whatever they want in their own homes, as long as it’s not illegal and doesn’t put other people or private property at risk. These same rights are not always afforded to co-op owners, however, and in some cases, not to condo unit owners, either. Building boards and management often attempt to regulate the behavior of residents, from mandating what percentage of their floors must be carpeted to attempting to prevent people from smoking in their apartments. Read More

Dishes & Towers

By Danielle Braff

While the era of massive, NASA-sized satellite dishes is long past (unless you’re in a very old building, or have held on to an antique dish out of nostalgia), the advent of smaller apparatus—as well as rooftop cell phone towers—has brought challenges along with the convenience. Read More

Fighting City Hall

By Adam Leitman Bailey

According to a well-worn truism, "You can't fight City Hall." In the old days, that was true—particularly when it came to public works projects. If the city wanted to do it, there was no one to say 'no,' except at the ballot box, when it was generally too late. However, that situation changed in the second half of the 20th century, when the historical preservation and environmental movements arose. Now, not only can you fight City Hall, you can win—just not every time. Battling against City Hall's army of lawyers requires picking the right battle, the right plaintiff, the right statute, and the right forum. Between the Second Avenue Subway, the Waste Disposal Center and the large structure of toilets in Brooklyn blocking resident’s views to name a few, there has never been a time in co-op and condo history where buildings have needed to fight City Hall. Read More

The Role of the Counsel

By Lisa Iannucci

Charles Dickens once said, “It is a pleasant world we live in, sir, a very pleasant world. There are bad people in it, Mr. Richard, but if there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.” Read More

The Warranty of Habitability

By Adam Leitman Bailey

Most New York residents—and certainly most New York attorneys are aware of the Warranty of Habitability. Few may know that its origins are statutory, and fewer still care that it contradicts common law, but most would be surprised by the types of occupancy to which the warranty does and does not apply—and the effect it has on the mortgage foreclosure process. While none of these doctrines are exactly new, they are currently enjoying prominence in the popular and legal press as tenant advocacy groups face a massive upsurge of neglected housing in the wake of the foreclosure pandemic. Read More

Preventing Offensive Smoke Conditions

By Adam Leitman Bailey

To reduce their potential liability from secondhand smoke-related issues, condominium and cooperative boards and landlords or rental buildings can attempt to adopt rules and bylaws or lease terms that clearly address smoking issues. (Although, changing the terms of a rent stabilized lease, even at renewal time, is virtually always prohibited.) Read More

The Business Next Door

By Greg Olear

Many aspects of the American work landscape have changed radically in the last two decades. As the service and information economies have overtaken manufacturing and other more traditional forms of labor, the old 9-to-5, office-bound workday model has shifted as well. Read More

Handling Second-Hand Smoke Complaints

By Adam Leitman Bailey

 Some of the most intense combat occurring in modern times is not that which has  taken place on battlefields, such as at Normandy, Pork Chop Hill, or in the la  Drang Valley, or currently in the mountains of Afghanistan, but rather in the  ongoing conflicts that occur between shareholders, owners, and renters of  apartments in multiple dwelling buildings, between themselves and/or with their  respective cooperative boards of directors, landlords, or condominium boards of  managers, over the infiltration of secondhand cigarette smoke into personal  living spaces. Read More

Where There's No Will

By Ann-Margaret Carrozza

 It’s probably not something you think about every day—or that's especially pleasant to contemplate at any time—but the fact remains: without a thoughtfully constructed estate plan, there is a  significant risk of your assets ending up in unintended hands upon your  passing. By executing a thorough, binding will that spells out exactly how you  want your estate handled, you can ensure that your assets are distributed  properly.   Read More

So You've Been Sued — Now What?

By Maggie Puniewska

 Lawsuits are usually not an association’s go-to method for dispute resolution. Expensive and time-consuming, they can  quickly turn into a financial burden and may create strained relations in the  community. Unfortunately, in some cases there’s no other way out. Last year a couple filed a suit against a neighbor, the  association, individual board members, and property managers who all neglected  to respond to the couple’s complaint of odors infiltrating their unit, the result of 20 cats inhabiting  the neighbor’s unit below. Read More

Listen Up!

By Enjolie Esteve

 While some condos and co-ops are lucky enough to have lawyers serve as members  of their board, the majority of boards don’t have an in-house legal expert. They often reach out to their attorney to  answer questions, vet documents and send the occasional stern letter to a  contractor or recalcitrant resident. Read More

New York Legislative Update for 2013

By Raanan Geberer

 The New York State legislative season is here again, and bills of all kinds are  being considered, including housing. Some of these bills directly impact co-op  and condo board members, managers and residents. Housing is also on the agenda  in the City Council. Read More

After the Storm

By W.B. King

 Fires devastated Breezy Point; areas of Staten Island were destroyed with lives  lost; thousands of residents in Lower Manhattan were plunged into darkness after an  electrical transformer exploded on the East River. These events were among the  horrific results of Superstorm Sandy, an event that continues to haunt  countless New York residents nearly eight months after the storm surge. Read More

An Unusual Assessment

By Eric B. Levine

 A recent federal appeals court decision on the subject of income tax law stands  to be of great benefit to cooperative corporations around the city,  particularly in light of damage suffered in many buildings from Hurricane  Sandy. Alphonso v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 708 F.3d 344 (2d Cir.  2013). Read More

Issues of Accessibility

By Hannah Fons

 New Yorkers are a resourceful bunch—we pride ourselves on being able to snag a cab during rush hour, get from the  Upper West Side to Greenpoint in less than three subway transfers, and show no  fear as we battle the crowd at a hot designer sample sale. For city residents  with compromised mobility however, the ability to do tasks that many of us take  for granted is profoundly impacted. For those with long-term disabilities, the  elderly, or those recovering from an illness or injury, even getting into or  out of their own building can feel like a monumental task. Read More

Your Building Counsel

By W.B. King

 Abraham Lincoln once said, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.  As a peacemaker, the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There  will still be business enough.” Read More

Laws Versus Rules

By Raanan Geberer

 New York's co-ops and condos are both governed by a multitude of laws and rules.  For co-ops, the primary governing documents are the bylaws and the proprietary  lease. For condos, they are the condominium declaration and, once again, the  bylaws. In addition, both types of developments have rules and regulations, or  house rules. Read More

Applying the Business Judgment Rule

By Adam Leitman Bailey

 Recently, the Appellate Division First Department, in Fletcher v. Dakota, Inc.,  involving a shareholder in The Dakota, a historic luxury co-op on the Upper  West Side, held that the business judgment rule does not protect individual  condo and co-op board members from personal tort liability where a board acting  in its corporate capacity has acted in bad faith, but where it is not alleged  that defendant board members have committed a tort independent of the tort  committed by the board itself. Read More

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