How Having a Celebrity as a Neighbor Can Affect Your Building The Rules May Be Different in the Case of a Famous Person

Madonna has reportedly been in a legal battle with her Upper West Side co-op (© Pascal Mannaerts / www.parcheminsdailleurs.com, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stars, of course, are just like us. Or so magazines would have us believe because, say, Ryan Gosling once wore a polo shirt. In reality, however, famous people bring with them a cultural cachet and a renown that objectively sets them apart from the layman, and thus one cannot attempt to buy into a cooperative residential property without bringing some of that celebrity baggage along with. The question that poses for boards is, how much will said baggage affect the day-to-day operations of the building, the lives of the residents, and the expectations placed upon the board itself?

Applying Themselves

For the purpose of this piece, it's necessary to note that “celebrity” doesn't apply just to movie stars, athletes, musicians and what have you. One also has to take into account those whose renown comes from the world of business itself – those whose accumulation of wealth has entered them into the public consciousness. And when these figures apply to purchase into a cooperative, the rules may prove more malleable than they would for someone less familiar.

“When it comes to financial disclosure, many whom are known among elite circles don't want to comply with the normal rules,” says Andrew P. Brucker, a partner with the law firm of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP, which has offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. “Many of the buildings which we represent have reasonably stretched their rules to a certain extent such that, rather than demand thorough financial details, including tax returns and your investment vehicles, they might just ask for one portfolio that meets the standards of the co-op. And we've also, on occasion, taken sworn statements from large accounting firm partners stating that a would-be purchaser has had gross income or adjusted gross income in excess of the amount required by the association.”

The Daily News

While the rules for the famous in regard to admittance into a co-op may vary from those applied toward persons not in the public eye, a loosening of regulations for a known wealthy figure should have little bearing on that figure's fellow residents. Where a celebrity's life can bleed into those around them, however, is in the area of public interest.

“In the abstract, having a celebrity live in a building creates 'operational issues' for a property,” says Aaron Shmulewitz, a partner with the Manhattan law firm Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, LLP. “The building staff, neighbors and managing agent will be affected by any number of factors, ranging from the paparazzi outside to groupies to visitors both wanted and unwanted.”

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