A Look at Enforcing House Rules Law & Order

It’s a time-worn pattern that plays out in workplaces, classrooms, and residential buildings everywhere: rules are set, and enforced strictly for awhile. Over time, enforcement wanes a little; the rules are bent, then broken—until such time as they’re being routinely ignored.

How do house rules originate? How are they modified? What constitutes a good house rule—and a bad one? How can house rules be enforced, and how should they be? Let’s take a look.

House Rules, a Brief Intro

House rules are not necessarily as old as the building, but they are as old as the cooperative or condominium association. When rental apartment buildings are converted to co-ops, when co-ops are converted to condos, and when condos are established from the get-go, the writing of house rules is part of the process, along with the bylaws and other governing documents.

“At the outset, there would be a set of house rules prepared and made part of the building’s governing documents,” says attorney Abbey F. Goldstein, a partner with Goldstein & Greenlaw, LLP in Kew Gardens, Queens.

“House rules are created by the board of directors,” expounds David L. Berkey, a partner with the law firm of Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP, in Manhattan. “And the board of directors—or board of managers in a condo—has the authority to modify them.” Most house rules are pretty cut-and-dried: No loud noise after such-and-such an hour. No children playing in the hallways. No ball playing outside. No bicycles in the hallway. All guests must sign in. And so forth.


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  • What is a board to do in a co-op when an unruly shareholder won't give keys to access an empty apartment for a radiator leak that building needs to resolve.Does it implement a lease rule that allows the building to access apartment and if any, what consequences should be expected from shareholder. thank you keyed out
  • My landlord is enforcing a rule. She doesnt give me permission for a cat yet the other tenants prior had cats. I have a witness to this. Its a private house hence no actual house manager.
  • I have a question relating to Fire Extinguishers which have recently been demanded by this condo to be purchased by Dec. 31, 2010 and to show a receipt for that purchase or be fined as a consequence. Training for the use of the device and periodic inspections will be made by a maintenance man employed by the corporation for general maintenance work and who is not certified or licensed by the State of NY to inspect and teach usage of same. Can that rule be enforceable? To my understanding House Rules may not be created in the confines of a condominium that are not codified or enforceable under law of the state or locality. Please advise.
  • How do you enforce a house rule about "No Odors" when the odor is cigarette smoke coming from your neighbors unit and the coop is not a non-smoking building? The smell is not only offensive but unhealthy. at times the amount of smoke is almost as if the smoker is in the unit with you.
  • @Keyedout: if governing documents says that shareholder tenants must give a key to the resident manager for access in times of an emergency, then all shareholder tenants must provide one. However, if a shareholder tenant doesn't comply, then they may face termination and eviction. @AH: if there are other units that have cats, it could be that they were there before you and were allowed to have cats. They're exercising what's called "grandfather rights" which means what was before remains until they move. Anyone moving in after the change of rule having no cats cannot have cats. @Bob Devoe: The maintenance man must be licensed to inspect fire extinguishers. The house rule on fire extinguishers cannot be enforced when he is not licensed. The bylaws and other governing documents are enforceable in housing court. @an unknown user: If there are no smoking signs posted conspicuously in the building, then the no smoking rule can be enforced. This means if your neighbor continues to smoke anywhere in the building including inside their apartment, they may face termination and eviction.
  • I have an upstairs co-op shareholder that has 4 grandchildren every weekend from Friday to Sunday that alows them to run, jump, stomp, ruff house from the time they arrive at 6:00pm til 11pm. Saturdays from 12pm to 10pm and Sunday's from 3:00pm til 9:00pm. They've sent her letter produce by the co-ops lawyer to stop as well as carpeting the area to no avail. Can the co-op issue a fine and add to the house rules that if anyone in the co-op doesn't abide by the rules the will be charged a fine for not complying? Thank you, From a Desperate old lady with anxiety problems