Imagine living in a building where your neighbors do whatever renovation work they want with no restrictions. Some believe they are do-it-yourself electricians and they move wiring within the apartment. Others put kitchens in the basement. Some decide to open the living room by knocking down a partition. Others want more modern picture windows. While they all may be well-intended, this scenario can lead to chaos and dangerous conditions in the building. The home wiring by an unlicensed electrician can lead to a fire. The wall that was taken down may be a load-bearing one. The picture window may make the whole building look "strange." Building alteration agreements are a vehicle for the building to have uniform rules and regulations to prevent unnecessary problems.
Simply stated, building alteration agreements are written contracts between the building and a shareholder stating the terms by which a shareholder may undertake an alteration in his apartment. They are an amplification of the provision in most proprietary leases requiring the board of directors' prior written approval for alterations. The contract may vary from building to building, but the basic topics covered are usually the same.
Why the Building Cares
The building is concerned about individual renovations for a number of reasons. The first is safety. The building wants to make sure that if the walls are moved or plumbing changed, it will be done in accordance with any applicable building codes. Boards must be sure that the work will be structurally sound and will not create any fire or safety hazards. Even if renovation work is sound or looks good, it may be in violation of the building code. It may have been done without any filing with the building department and is illegal.
A second consideration is making sure zoning laws are not violated which may adversely affect the entire building. An increase or decrease in the room count for the building which has not been authorized could result in the loss of the building's Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).