Co-ops and condominiums are subject to more and more legislation affecting how they govern and interact with shareholders and unit owners. In fact, boards and residents alike should be aware of several new laws and regulations that have recently gone into effect.
Allergens and Asthma
One of those news laws, says attorney Mark Hakim of the New York City-based firm of Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, is Local Law 55 of 2018, also known as New York City Indoor Asthma Allergen Hazards in Residential Dwellings and Pest Management. It applies to all multiple dwelling property owners.
According to Hakim, “Effective as of January 19, 2019 this law requires owners to investigate and remediate indoor allergen hazards such as mold, mice and rats, and cockroaches. As it relates to mold, for example, the new law requires contractors who perform mold assessment, remediation, and/or abatement services to obtain appropriate training and proper licensing, and also establishes new minimum work standards for mold assessments and remediation activities.
“This is certainly good news intended to assist affected individuals, but it can also place additional financial and other burdens on a cooperative corporation. While the law does provide exceptions for cooperative corporations when a shareholder and/or family resides in the apartment, [it] does allow the cooperative corporation to shift liability via agreement. This new law will certainly require managing agents and boards to investigate whether it applies -- and take action when it does.”
Knob Covers on Gas Stoves
Another recently-enacted piece of legislation is Local Law 17. That requires owners of units in multifamily buildings to provide covers for the knobs on each gas stove in apartments where children under the age of six live. Owners must also make the knob covers available to residents without children if they ask for them.
“This law was borne out of an unfortunate incident in which a 3-year old boy playing with a stove in his mother’s apartment accidentally started a fire that killed numerous people,” explains Hakim. “However, as the law is only applicable to the owner of an apartment, and while it exempts co-ops and condominiums generally, it would nonetheless apply in the event an apartment in a co-op or condominium is rented or sublet. In that case, the shareholder or condominium unit owner...would be liable for compliance. No matter, as ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ boards would be better off complying with the law rather than not.”
According to Stuart Halper, Vice President of Impact Management, which has offices in New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, “Another regulation that's new to New York City and that went into effect this year requires all gas lines to be inspected on a yearly basis.” While this adds another inspection to an already long list, it is one that clearly keeps safety at the center of both resident and administrative concerns.
Applications for Buying a Home
Both Halper and Hakim outline another recent ordinance that has not yet made its way to New York City: a law passed in Westchester in December 2018 requiring co-op boards to advise potential purchasers within 15 days of submission of purchase application whether or not their applications are complete. Once it is complete, they now have 60 days to accept or reject the application.
“If an application is rejected, the board must send a notice of the rejection to the County's Human Rights Commission,” says Hakim. “For co-op boards that fail to meet the 60-day threshold, a fine of $1,000 could be levied for their first offense; a second offense would involve a $1,500 fine, and the Human Rights Commission would levy a fine of $2,000 for a third offense. It does not require the board to articulate any reason for the rejection, however. Rockland County already has a similar law which states that, in essence, a board is required to act within 45 days, or an application is deemed approved. Obviously, boards should be acting expeditiously. But I am always concerned when the legislature, absent a discrimination issue or other legally compelling reason, gets involved with resales and co-op corporations.”
AJ Sidransky is a staff writer at The Cooperator, and a published novelist.