When it comes to something as valuable as the place we call home, almost any dispute has the potential to turn into a legal crisis—and that goes double for New Yorkers. For tenants and landlords, these issues usually arise over problems with late rent, rule breaking, or destruction of property. Co-op and condo owners face many of the same issues as rental tenants and their landlords—but they aren’t the same.
As it turns out, shareholders and unit owners have their own forum within the city’s Housing Court to air grievances and seek justice. That place is the Co-op and Condo Part of the Housing Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York—often simply called Part C, for obvious reasons. In 1997, former New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye announced a top-to-bottom overhaul of the Civil Court’s Housing Part. As part of that reorganization, a special Cooperative/Condominium Resolution Part—Part C—was created to deal specifically with co-op and condo issues.
Thousands of issues and cases have been resolved in Part C in the nearly 10 years since it first opened its metaphorical doors. According to Jeffrey Goldman, a partner with the law firm of Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman LLP in Manhattan, about 20 percent of the 350,000 cases heard in New York City’s Housing Court involve co-ops and condos.
A Place of Their Own
Lucas Ferrara, an attorney with Manhattan-based law firm Finkelstein Newman LLP, speculates that Part C gets 15 new cases a day from buildings in Manhattan, five days per week. Other boroughs get their share as well. “I’m informed, for example,” says Ferrara, “that the Bronx has quite few cases too—mostly attributable to Co-op City, and predominantly nonpayment cases.”
Before the creation of Part C, disputes between shareholders and co-ops were directed into the same litigation stream as renters and building owners. John Van Der Tuin, a partner in the law firm of Balber Pickard Battistoni Maldonado & Van Der Tuin LLP in Manhattan, has experience with both rental and shareholder cases and believes the separate court was necessary because the dynamics and legal issues are so different. “It’s a different economic relationship,” he says. “With a co-op, it’s not just a space rental—it involves partial ownership. The breadth and depth of the relationship is different.”