The increase in the number of co-ops and condos in New York City has changed the way many New Yorkers live. Renters who have purchased a co-op apartment have become owners of stock while condo owners posses a block and lot. The traditional landlord-tenant relationship enjoyed by these former renters has been replaced by other relationships that are quite different and sometimes confusing. In co-ops, the tenants are owners of their own landlords; while, in condos, the tenants are landowners of their individual units and they acquire an undivided interest in the common elements of the condo.
These new relationships are sometimes at odds with health and safety laws that were originally aimed at correcting imbalancesperceived or realin the normal landlord-tenant relationship. As a result, shareholders and boards of directors of co-ops as well as unit owners and boards of managers of condos will often hear the question: Whose responsibility is this, anyway? especially when maintenance or repair issues come up.
General Obligation Rules
The mutual obligations between shareholders and the co-op are governed by the co-op's proprietary lease, house rules and by-laws. Under most proprietary leases, the co-op is responsible for structural repairs to the building and repairs to the common elements of the co-opall parts of the building that are not inside the individual shareholders' apartmentsand repairs to the interior of shareholders' apartments, if the damage has been caused by the co-op's negligence. If the co-op makes repairs for which the shareholder is responsible, the co-op is entitled, under most proprietary leases, to charge the shareholder for the cost of those repairs.
In condos, the repair obligations are set forth in the governing documents such as the declaration establishing the condo, the by-laws of the condo and the individual unit deed. Under the Multiple Dwelling Law (within New York City) and the Multiple Residence Law (outside New York City), each unit owner is deemed to be the person in control of his or her apartment, while the condo's board of managers is deemed to be the person in control of the common elements of the condo for purposes of enforcing those laws or codes.
In condos, unit owners are responsible for complying with regulations regarding window guards, smoke detectors, asbestos removal and lead paint abatement inside the unit, while the board of managers is responsible for repairs and other health and safety laws in the common elements. Windows, however, are generally considered part of the common elements; and, therefore, are the responsibility of the board of managers.