Condo and co-op boards are always looking for ways to save money and one area where some cost-cutting opportunities might be found is in your legal bills. Your building's attorney likely performs many different types of services, works different hours every month and charges a significant hourly rate. With so many factors at play, attorneys who represent HOA boards have suggestions as to where those opportunities for savings exist.
"Each board, or association, is like a small business, and they have the same kinds of problems that small businesses have," says Bruce Cholst of the law firm of Rosen & Livingston in Manhattan. "They have vendor disputes, but they also have internal disputes with shareholders. They have contracts with vendors and professionals. Legal services are really across the board because a building is like a small business."
As such, a little belt-tightening and foresight can lead to lower attorney fees. You just have to know how to go about it.
Getting on a Retainer
Some lawyers say paying your attorney a set annual fee is one way to keep costs under control. Al Pennisi, a partner at the law firm of Pennisi Daniels & Norelli LLP in Rego Park says retainers cover services like writing letters, reading contracts, telephone calls and attending annual meetings, as well as a limited number of other board meetings.
"Usually the attorney will go over and above the retainer," he says of situations that call for the attorney beyond what the retainer covers. "They will charge a lower hourly rate as opposed to those who are working on a case-to-case basis."