Paper Cuts Reducing Paper Waste, Saving Trees

Lots of people talk about the stress and uncertainty of the approval process in New York City's co-op and condo buildings; all that scrutiny, all that paperwork! But the endless reams of forms and files take another toll as well - on the environment.

Consider the facts: the application a co-op board reviews (usually called a "board package") on behalf of a prospective buyer is comprised of several components: a completed application - with name, address, social security number, pets, club memberships, etc. - social and professional reference letters, proof of income, and a financial statement are almost universally required. The board may require up to six reference letters, and some require three years of completed tax returns - federal, state and city - as well as backup for the financial statements, including copies of multiple months of bank statements, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts. There are also numerous other forms typically required that relate to such items as lead-based paint, window guards, house rules and acknowledgment of the building's sublet requirements, move in procedures, pet policies, and so forth.

In completing a single board package, an enormous amount of paper is used. Some boards require seven copies, and others require as many as twelve copies of everything; one for each board member and one for management. Lenders and lawyers have their own paper requirements. Anyone who has been through a closing knows about the reams of paper that fly across the closing table.

Is this excessive paper use truly necessary in order to gain acceptance to one of our city's finer apartment buildings? Should it be? These two questions are asked daily by the parties to all New York City residential real estate transactions: sellers, buyers, landlords, tenants, lawyers, brokers, management agents, and co-op board members.

This embarrassingly tedious and wasteful process is industry's decidedly non-standard operating procedure. Some boards want the packages in a certain order, some don't care; some insist on dividers, some say no dividers; some want the packages loose, others bound; some want cover letters, others specify no cover letter. It seems that this process is reinvented every time a board package is submitted. Everyone abhors it, but accepts it as the norm due to the lack of an alternative. There needs to be a better way.

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