Q&A: Additional Maintenance for Excessive Water Use

Q I live in a 47-unit building and many of my neighbors have two or three children living with either one or two parents in the one-bedroom apartments. I believe that those apartments should be paying additional maintenance to cover the cost of our building’s water bills. Has this question been raised before for another building? What did they do?

It doesn’t seem fair for a single person like myself who is not home for 15 hours a day to subsidize the water usage of another family, who additionally may have a dishwasher/laundry machine in their apartment.

— Tired of Paying Extra

A “Providing water to each apartment of a co-op is the responsibility of the corporation, which must also bear the expense,” says Abbey F. Goldstein, an attorney with the Kew Gardens-based law firm of Goldstein & Greenlaw, LLP. “Barring some specific provision in the proprietary lease permitting an alternative, all expenses of the co-op must be apportioned on the basis of the shares allocated to each apartment. The resulting maintenance charge is entirely based on the number of shares owned.

“Consequently, a shareholder on the first floor must pay his share of the elevator repairs and the cost of the electricity to operate the elevator, even though he never uses the elevator; a shareholder who does not have a car pays his share for the repair of the garage; a shareholder without a terrace pays his share for structural repairs to terraces. From a legal perspective, there is no basis to apportion water costs.

“You suggest that it is ‘unfair’ and certainly this argument can be made. However, it is no more unfair, in my opinion, than a person without children having to pay taxes to support public schools. Since humankind won’t last very long without children, perhaps it would be sensible to think twice before further burdening parents who have to bathe their children each day.

“As to dishwashers and laundry machines, generally, the approval of this equipment is within the purview of the board, which could charge a fee for it should it chose to do so.”

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