Policies and Procedures A Manual Clarifies Responsibility

The best-run co-ops and condos regularly update their house rules document, providing essential information to residents, the board and the professionals who work with the building, on everything from payment of arrears to installation of window guards. These properties also develop and distribute, either as part of the house rules or as a separate reference document, a policies and procedures manual that clearly defines how the board and residents are to communicate with management and go about certain activities such as applying for permission to make alterations to apartments, arranging for sublease or rental approval, moving in and out of the building, providing keys for emergency access and countless other items. Because the list goes on and on, having a manual can make life a lot easier.

A Useful Document

Boards of buildings where policies and procedures manuals exist quickly testify to their usefulness. Al Volpe, a long-time board member and current treasurer of Berkeley Towers II, a 442-unit co-op in Woodside, and vice president of the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives, says that his property's document is useful for both current and incoming residents. "When new purchasers come in, we give them the manual," says Volpe. "And there is no charge for extra copies."

Florence Tonjes, board president of a 202-unit co-op on Fifth Avenue, also recognizes the value of promulgating policies and procedures. Last year, her building produced a comprehensive rules and regulations document, and Tonjes recounts an incident where one resident actually apologized to another for having violated the building's policy when it was shown to him in writing. "It's worked well," says Tonjes. "With a codified document of rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, nobody can say they didn't know because it's all right there, written down."

Tonjes' co-op is managed by Cooper Square Realty, a property management firm in Manhattan, whose president, David Kuperberg, is something of an expert on policies and procedures manuals. Kuperberg has written several articles on the topic and has been instrumental in the creation of such documents for several of his portfolio properties. So important does Kuperberg think this document is, that Cooper Square issues a sign-off sheet to all prospective incoming residents indicating the prospect has received, and understands, all information contained in the document.

"Some properties," says Kuperberg, "even make it a requirement that the outgoing resident provide their copy of the document to the new resident coming into that unit, and charge residents who lose or must otherwise replace their copies." Kuperberg recommends that the document be updated on a regular basis, and completely updated and re-issued every three to five years. "It's not necessary to re-do the whole thing every time a new policy is passed or a new procedure is put in place," he says, "although it is advisable for the board to issue a timely memo to residents informing them of these changes when they do take place."

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Comments

  • I am a shareholder and 1 year board member of a building that is only 55% owner occupied and 45% sponsor owned by our management company. Most of the sponsor units are rentals with no sight of converting to sales. consequently, the coop has a rental mentality Plagued by apathy. What can I do to help create a strong active and involved board and shareholders that will have a vested interest in our coop?