Need Answers? Look to Your Governing Documents

Your roof terrace leaked and the neighbor below you sued for damages. Do you have any recourse? The heating system in your apartment failed to work and the managing agent sent you the bill for its repair. Do you have to pay?

The answers to most questions raised by co-op and condo residents are contained in your building’s governing documents.

A Hierarchy of Documents

To make some sense of the maze of rules and codes that affect ownership of shares and property in co-ops and condos, it helps to view these documents as a hierarchy. At the top in a co-op is the certificate of incorporation. The equivalent for condos is the declaration of the condominium. Copies of these documents may be obtained from the Secretary of State, Department of State, Division of Corporations, in Albany if they are not in the building’s own files.

Next in the hierarchy are the bylaws of the co-op corporation or condo association. This document generally details the purpose of the entity, its form of government, its method of elections, its voting process, the type and frequency of board and shareholder/owner meetings, and the specific form of agenda for meetings. It also typically includes a description of the directors and the number of officers, along with a description of their duties, responsibilities and liabilities.

One of the most important features of many bylaws is that they contain specific guidelines for amending their contents. The bylaws of a condo contain other significant provisions having to do with the form of ownership and method for changing it, a description of the property, the operation of the property and the duties and responsibilities of the owners and occupants of the condo.


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  • how can the SHAREHOLDERS of a co-op impeach the current board. They have mismanaged our funds, depleted our reserves, poor capital planning etc. There are also allegations of fraud, theft, intimidation, etc. What do we do?
  • an owner have 48 units and the rest of the building owners are can we stop the owner of the 48 units of belong to the board. his vote every year is the # of shares from his 48 units .he also hold 2 seats on the board.
  • Recently, I was informed that the Board in my Co-Op was exploring the idea of hiring a locksmith to enter into apts. that had not responded to a request for a yearly inspection. Can you please inform me of the laws regarding such action?