A Look at Archaic Bylaws Something Old, Something New...

On a classic episode of the TV show The Simpsons, the town read its founding charter only to discover that the mayor of Springfield was supposed to get two pigs every year.

While there are probably no co-op or condo documents in effect today that deal with pigs, the point is that if bylaws and house rules aren't read and updated, sometimes, silly things can slip through the cracks.

It's important for any co-op or condo to have a clear set of rules and bylaws to help govern the building, and because times change, as do community standards, attitudes and populations, bylaws do get out of date. This means that rules and regulations that once made sense, or that reflected the morals and standards of their day, can become antiquated, irrelevant or just plain silly as the years pass.

"By taking a gander at the bylaws and house rules in older co-ops and condos you really get a great spectrum of history in New York City over the last 100 years," says Luigi Rosabianca, principal attorney and founder of Rosabianca & Associates in Manhattan. "I guess, if we look at it historically, the rules and bylaws were set by whoever built the building, unless they were amended. They would always reflect the…traditions of the time. If a building was built in 1920, obviously the rules will be a lot different than one built in 1990. Through the years I have seen or heard about some funny or unique things that were written."

Times They Are a Changing

One of the reasons that bylaws become archaic is that society changes through the decades. Back when some of these prewar buildings were built, some didn't allow certain ethnicities to live there, some didn't allow unmarried women to entertain past a certain hour. Still others wouldn't allow servants to use the front door. Things like that seem ridiculous today.


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  • Our association is currently attempting to up date by-laws which are 40 years old. In the committee it is very difficult to get an agreement on the changes proposed. Even more difficult is the fact the members show no interest in contributing ideas for changes. Are there any sources of info on how to overcome apathy in our community of over seven thousand residents? Thank you
  • If people show no interest, why are they on the committee? I would explore possibility of getting them replaced with some people who care.
  • Is there a site where I can find information on how to set new standards in a 10 year old condo? For, example replace iron windows with new aluminum windows and patio doors that slide easier and eliminate gaps where bugs can enter. There are also new convertible doors. We live in Mexico. I want to know how to approach the board with this concept. Have others been successful?
  • Where can I obtain the bi-laws for a HDFC co-op, and who are the Directors, and how are they elected.