Q&A: Atrium/Courtyard Rules

Q Our new condominium contains, as part of its common elements, an atrium and courtyard. What do I need to know about instituting rules and regulations for these common areas in light of the fact that the board would like to afford residents the opportunity to “rent” the atrium and courtyard for parties or other functions?

—New Condo Board Member

A “Assuming that the bylaws concerning the board of managers’ rights to control the use of the common areas are typical, the board has the right to establish conditions and fees for the use of the common areas for parties and other functions,” says Steven R. Wagner, Esq., a partner with Wagner Davis P.C. in Manhattan. “Before any events or functions are considered, the condominium should consult their insurance broker or insurance carrier to confirm that there will be coverage for the event and whether any special notice to the broker/carrier needs to be given prior to such event occurring. Once that is in order, the board should consider what types of events it will permit for these common areas. The board has the right to limit the use of the common areas, for example, to events of less than a certain number of guests or prohibiting the service of alcoholic beverages, loud or amplified music or political events.

“We recommend that the condominium have a responsible person, usually a unit owner, sign a license agreement for the event with the following information: the date of the event; the start and finish time of the event; the type of event; whether there will be any special equipment or setup for the event; whether there will be music (and whether it will be amplified); the number of people who will be attending the event; the amount to be charged by the condominium for use of the common area (including any additional charges should the event run longer than the agreed upon time) and the amount of security deposit that will be required.

“In addition, the license agreement should include an agreement by the responsible person: to clean up promptly after the event after is concluded and to restore the common areas to their original condition; to conduct the event in a dignified manner in keeping with the tenor of the building and so as to not disturb residents of the building (or adjacent properties, if appropriate); to provide a certificate of insurance for the event naming the condominium, the board of managers, the unit owners and the managing agent as additional insured parties; to comply with all laws and to furnish to the managing agent any required governmental permits in advance of the event; allowing the condominium to use the security deposit in the event any expense is incurred by the condominium or if the agreement is violated (i.e., damage to the common areas or if additional clean up is required); to indemnify the condominium against any claim or damages (including attorneys’ fees) and to allow the condominium to treat any amounts owed to the condominium by the responsible person to be treated as additional common charges; and finally, to allow the condominium and/or management to terminate the license immediately and stop the event if any of the rules or the provisions of the license agreement are violated.

“In short, the board of managers of this new condominium has to consider what it will allow the atrium and the courtyard to be used for and that the unit owners and the board are adequately protected against any claims or inappropriate use.”

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