Getting Your Foot in the Door Approval Process for Co-ops & Condos

Buying an apartment in New York can be a real odyssey—finding a place that fits your budget and other requirements, securing a mortgage, gathering reams of paperwork for the closing...all very stressful and tedious. But for those buying into co-op—and increasingly, some condo—buildings, there's another hurdle to factor into the process: the board approval. 

The ordeal of getting approval from a co-op admissions committee in the Big Apple is so notorious that books, news stories, and even plays have been written about the experience. Flamboyant celebrities like Courtney Love and Madonna and politicians like the late president Richard M. Nixon have been denied entrance to some of the city’s pricier co-op apartments by finicky boards. Let’s take a look at what in involved when boards give the thumbs down.

Who Do You Think You Are? 

At first blush, it may seem petty, if not outright cruel. An owner finds a buyer for her apartment, contracts are signed…and the deal collapses because the board shoots down the buyer. The buyer is angry, the owner possibly more so. Why on earth would a board do such a thing?

“Generally, it must be kept in mind that we all live in close proximity with our neighbors and we share amenities,” says Stuart Saft, a partner with the Manhattan law firm of Holland & Knight. “It is virtually impossible to evict someone in New York City even if they misbehave or disturb their neighbors or fail to pay their maintenance. The board approval process may seem ‘snooty’ to some, but to those of us who live in these buildings and serve on the boards, it provides a measure of protection from a difficult resident—i.e., the one who flouts the rules because he or she can do anything they want in their apartment.”

This being New York City, 'difficult' residents do tend to pop up from time to time. As with mice or bedbugs or any other potential menace, the best way to get rid of them is to not let them in the building in the first place.

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