When you're on the board of a co-op or condo building, sometimes it can feel like you need a law degree to understand all of the paperwork that gets thrown at you. Depending on where you live, there are bylaws and proprietary leases and house rules and everything in between. And like any thriving growing community, sometimes rules and laws need to change with the times. But how often can these documents be changed? Who changes them? Do the owners or shareholders have any say in these changes?
First, while they sound similar, it's important to understand the difference between some of these documents. For the most part, it all comes down to whether your place of residence is a condominium or a cooperative.
According to Neil Garfinkel, an attorney with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP in Manhattan, bylaws in a co-op dictate how the corporation operates-- in that regard, they're very different from the bylaws in a condominium. The documents that tell the people in a co-op what they can and can't do in respect to living in the building are the house rules and the proprietary lease.
"However," says Garfinkel, "the bylaws in a condominium are the rules and regulation the condo owners are governed by; they are set up to protect the interest of the owners."
The condominium bylaws are a self-governing document for the association. This covers board member qualifications and the direction of the board of directors, including how it administers policies according to the bylaws and how it oversees the maintenance and administration of the association. The bylaws will also cover meetings, voting, proxies, budget, assessments, including special assessments, insurance coverage, and restrictions on the use of the units and the common areas. For example, condominium bylaws will state whether or not unit owners can own pets; but the cooperative owner's proprietary lease will state the rules of pet ownership.