Bad things happen to good buildings; it's a fact of life. From tyrannical sponsors to maintenance mishaps, there's plenty to go wrong - and when it does, your life can be made miserable. But sometimes a truly inspired manager can pull a happy ending out of the stickiest situation. We spoke with some of the city's busy building managers to find out how they resolved some of their own worst-case scenarios.
Robert Grant, director of Manhattan-based Midboro Management, Inc., has been helping clients for years. But some clients need more help than others. And some need Superman. According to Grant, one such case was a five-and-a-half-story cond-op that spanned a block. "When I was brought in, they were in big trouble. The sponsor owned the commercial space; the cooperative owned the residential space. The sponsor had avoided paying for common expenses, repairs, and maintenance for years."
In fact, says Grant, no condo board of managers existed at all. The board of the co-op portion of the building had sued the sponsor for unpaid bills, and the case had settled, but they still had large legal bills to contend with - and one tenant/shareholder who was $70,000 in arrears.
"The water and heating systems were in desperate shape," continues Grant, "and they needed to be upgraded, but [the co-op] had little money in the reserve fund for capital projects. And even though the heating systems for the commercial and residential spaces had been separated, the sponsor was "stealing" heat by tapping into the co-op's heating lines." Whew.
Clearly, Grant had his work cut out for him. First, he brought in a mechanical engineer who found the zone valve that was being used to divert heat to the commercial space, and turned it off. Then he had the system redesigned to make it more efficient - all in time for the next heating season. Next, Grant began negotiating with the delinquent tenant. When they couldn't agree on the language of the settlement, Midboro retained a well-known landlord-tenant attorney and negotiated a flat fee for filing a non-payment case. The shareholder quickly settled, and remitted payment of almost $90,000.