Although it is frequently assumed that cooperative boards of directors are totally responsible for all building decisions, typically they are assisted by a large group of professional consultants who not only guide them but also sometimes make the day-to-day decisions on their behalf. When a shareholder has an issue or a proposal, it’s wise to try to determine the best course of communication before contacting the board.
Beginning with the most basic day to day issues, such as repairs, the resident manager or handyman would be the primary point of contact. Boards typically do not become involved with the daily maintenance of a building and should be contacted about these matters only as a last resort and after contact with the resident manager and managing agent have been fully exhausted.
If a shareholder is planning to renovate their apartment or install major equipment, the managing agent in concert with the building architect and resident manager will approve the plans in the name of the board. Every building has its own renovation guidelines and typically there is an alteration agreement between the building and shareholder which outlines the building’s requirements and must be approved by the managing agent.
Some of the best ideas for building amenities come from the residents of a building. Want a gym, roof deck or a playroom? Having some concrete idea of how to accomplish the project will help your dreams come to fruition. During my tenure as president of my co-op, one of the board members wanted a gym. Because he was a developer, he presented the board with very specific information about the area in the building, which could be converted to a gym and sources to purchase the equipment. Since no one else on the board had this expertise, it made us very comfortable going forward with the idea.
Boards also look to shareholders for input in major projects. When undertaking a lobby or hallway renovation, some buildings will form a committee to oversee and report back to the board, while other boards will coordinate on their own. Either way, it is essential to give the shareholder the opportunity for input. Ask the designer to submit three designs with a variety of finishes and invite the shareholders to vote for their favorite. Open communication can foster excellent results.