Talk to enough property managers and board members, and eventually you’ll hear the phrase “owner’s mentality” mentioned in reference to co-op and condo dwellers. Usually the phrase is uttered by way of a complaint, as in, “Our residents just don’t have an owner’s mentality about their units or their building.”
The charge can be made against a variety of residents—not simply those who are new to living in multi-family buildings. Whether they are new owners or long-time residents, it’s sometimes difficult for co-op and condo dwellers to understand that their board and management company are not responsible for maintaining, repairing, or managing every facet of every unit in the building.
In short, the board /management team are not landlords. They’re volunteer administrators and hired personnel, respectively, and their duties are clearly defined in their community’s governing documents.
Of course, in an ideal world every new co-op shareholder or condo unit owner would read their building’s governing documents from cover to cover and get clarification on any points they weren’t 100 percent crystal-clear on. In reality, the onus of educating new residents on their own responsibilities as owners in a multi-family building falls to boards and managers. Insuring that everyone understands what they are—and are not—responsible for lessens the chances for misunderstandings and discord between boards, management, and residents on down the road.
Comparing Apples to Apples
According to Robert Braverman, an attorney specializing in co-op and condo law with Manhattan-based Braverman & Associates, landlord/tenant and shareholder/board relationships certainly have their similarities. “The board member/shareholder relationship is not totally unlike a landlord-tenant relationship,” he says. “There’s a lease between the co-op corporation and the shareholder. That’s one layer of the relationship. The biggest distinguishing factor is the [presence of] a board of directors that owes fiduciary duty to the shareholders [of a co-op.]”