Q&A: Who’s Financially Responsible for Repairs?

Q. There is structural damage in a sponsor-owned apartment. The rent-controlled tenants who live there require specific accommodations within their apartment due to a disability. The overall construction is the co-op’s responsibility; however, the specific accommodations due to the sponsor’s tenants needs will add additional cost. Is this additional cost the sponsor or the co-op’s financial responsibility?

    —Shareholder Who Needs to Know

A. “This letter presents two questions in one,” says attorney Adam Finkelstein of the New York City-based firm Kagan Lubic Lepper Finkelstein & Gold, LLP.  “First, who is responsible for structural repairs to an apartment within a cooperative? And second, who is responsible for the cost of making accommodations for persons with disabilities within an apartment?   

“With regard to the first question, there are not enough facts provided to provide a definitive answer. But in many cases the cooperative as the owner of the entire building would be responsible for structural repairs under the proprietary lease.  In saying this, however, there may arise certain situations where the cost of such repair is able to be charged back to the shareholder either as a result of their acts or omissions or that of their guests or invitees.  

“With respect to the second question, the answer depends on where the cooperative is located.  Specifically under federal and state law, while a cooperative is required to allow reasonable accommodations to be made to an apartment for people with disabilities, outside of New York City that cost is born by the person seeking the accommodation.  In New York City it is possible that the cooperative must bear the expense as the city version of the federal and state law is more expansive.  In this case, the person requesting the accommodation is a rent regulated tenant of the sponsor. Therefore, if the apartment is outside of New York City the cost of the modification is chargeable to the sponsor.  If the apartment is in New York City, then the cost very well might be the responsibility of the cooperative if doing so would not cause the cooperative undue hardship.” Married and on the Board: Conflict of Interest?

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