Answering the Day-to-Day Questions Thoroughly Review Your Governing Documents

 Your roof terrace leaked and the neighbor below you sued for damages. The  heating system in your apartment failed to work and the managing agent sent you  the bill for its repair. You bought a dog for your child, and six months later  the board has demanded that the animal be removed from the building. What are  your options in these scenarios?  

 The answers to questions like these can usually be found in a building’s governing documents. Whether these documents—which include the proprietary lease (in the case of a co-op), the bylaws and the  house rules—are filed in your attorney’s office or on-site with your other important papers, they should be reviewed  periodically. Their contents govern the terms of your ownership as well as your  rights and obligations.  

 A Hierarchy of Documents

 In order to understand how various laws and rules work to govern multifamily  buildings, it may be helpful to view them in a hierarchy.  

 At the top, in a co-op, is the Certificate of Incorporation, which is filed with  the Department of State. The equivalent for condos is the Declaration of the  Condominium. These documents may contain specific provisions for making  amendments. If it’s not available in the building’s files, a copy of this document may be obtained from the Secretary of State,  Department of State, Division of Corporations, in Albany.  

 Next in the hierarchy are the bylaws of the co-op corporation or condo  association. The bylaws govern how business is conducted within the building:  its form of government, election and voting process, the type and frequency of  meetings, the specific form of agenda for meetings, a description of the board  and number of officers, as well as their duties and responsibilities.  

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