Q&A: How do I address a neighbor's possible illegal behavior?

Q. I’ve been noticing that there is heavy traffic of people that come and go to a particular cooperative apartment near mine in Flushing. I’m assuming that there is alleged gambling going on with card games, basically every day and definitely on the weekends. These occurrences, needless to say, present a great problem for the building security personnel, and for the residents as well. Many of these transient visitors to the apartment in question are often intoxicated, and it presents an unsafe living environment for the other owners and their families residing in the building. With whom should this type of complaint be filed? How does a board or non-board member call or write to address this? What can be done to protect the people that want to live and deserve to live in a safe and comfortable environment?

                        —Concerned in Queens

A. “Cooperative apartment corporations often confront situations where a particular shareholder’s behavior is offensive to others in the building,” says Margery N. Weinstein, an attorney and a partner in the Manhattan-based law firm of Ganfer & Shore, LLP.  “Sometimes such offensive behavior is so intolerable and disruptive that it affects or endangers the day to day life of other building residents.  Occasionally, when more moderate measures fail, a cooperative board must take legal action in order to protect its other unit owners from a specific shareholder’s objectionable conduct.   

“We will first address what the questioner should do in order to notify the cooperative board of perceived offensive behavior.  Second, we will discuss the various measures available to cooperative boards to alleviate offensive/illegal behavior in their buildings and to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their owners.

“Initially, the questioner should call the building’s managing agent about his or her concerns. Reporting the behavior to the building management in this way will alleviate the need for the questioner to confront the shareholder directly. The managing agent should either investigate the situation itself or ask its on-site building staff to do so.  Typically, the managing agent will then have a conversation with the offending shareholder to better understand what has occurred. This conversation ought to have the effect of putting the offending shareholder “on notice” that the management is watching him and his guests.    

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