Q&A: Charging For Common Space Storage?

Q I am the president of a 60-unit condominium in Brooklyn. Years ago, the board created some bicycle storage space (a room with some bicycle racks) in the basement and allocated the two spaces to owners on a first-come, first-served basis. A couple of years ago, the board wanted to start charging owners $50 per annum for each bicycle they have stored in the bicycle storage. Despite the high value of their apartments, owners expressed their displeasure at this minimal charge. Some owners banded together and indicated that this is common space, and the board has no right to charge for it. Not all the board members were willing to proceed with the charge, and the issue was placed on the “back burner.” Now the issue of charging has arisen again amongst my board members, and I am in favor of it. We may also charge for baby carriage storage. The condo has barely any sources of income other than fines and laundry. I am concerned, however, about the response I may get this time.

— Concerned Board Member

A “The unit owners may be correct in deeming the basement storage area as “common space,” says attorney Denise C. DeNicola, a partner in Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman LLP’s transactional real estate department. However, this does not prevent the condominium board from assessing a license fee for licensing its use to a limited extent- provided there is nothing in your bylaws that specifically prohibits the imposition of such a fee.

“Common spaces, common areas or ‘common elements’ are usually defined as all parts of the property other than the individual units and specifically include those portions of the land and the building either existing for the common use of the units or the unit owners, or necessary for, or convenient to, the existence, maintenance or safety of the building (i.e. basement or cellar space).

“In addition to determining the amount of and establishing the methods of payment and collection of common charges and assessments from its unit owners, the board of managers generally has the right to impose and collect reasonable fees where a portion of the common elements, accessible by all unit owners, is used for a special purpose by certain unit owners.

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