Q&A: Asbestos Request Goes Ignored

Q. What can be done when a co-op building has pipes in the building that proved to be positive for asbestos, and the building refuses to release the test results to shareholders who are affected? Are they entitled to get results ?

                        —Worried Shareholder

A. “Asbestos is a certainly a serious health issue,” says attorney Slava Hazin of the New York firm Warshaw Burstein, LLC, “but it is important to know exactly where the asbestos is located, and its condition. Is the asbestos found in insulation surrounding the pipes, and what is the condition of the insulation?  Have the pipes become so corroded and the insulation so damaged that the asbestos is actually getting into the pipes and into the building’s water supply?  According to experts, the mere presence of asbestos is not dangerous unless it is damaged, crumbles (become friable) or becomes airborne – or in this case gets into the building’s water supply.  

“As a shareholder, you are entitled to get the facts. In the spirit of transparency, the board should have provided shareholders with the test results and, if necessary, a plan for remediation. If the board refuses to do so, Section 624 of the New York Business Corporation Law (BCL), which applies to cooperative corporations, gives shareholders the right, upon giving proper notice, to demand to inspect the corporation’s books and records, including minutes of board meetings.  If the board already has the test results, there have to be minutes of board meeting at which this issue was discussed.  You should consult with an attorney regarding making a formal written demand upon the board for copies of all board minutes at which this issue was discussed, along with a copy of any reports prepared for the board, including the test results.  

“In the event the board refuses to permit you to inspect these documents and make ‘extracts therefrom,’ your counsel can recommend whether appropriate legal action should be taken.”

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