Renovating Your Apartment Know Your Alteration Agreement

Anyone living in a co-op knows that if they want to renovate their apartment, they will need to sign an alteration agreement. This document is basically a contract between the shareholder and the co-op in which the shareholder agrees to various terms and conditions, which will ensure that the co-op and other shareholders will not suffer damage during the renovation. Some shareholders are engaged in major renovations where items, such as pianos, are being hoisted up the side of the building or temporary elevators are built outside the building. Other shareholders are making changes, which can affect the building's heating and plumbing systems, as well as the other shareholders' apartments. It is quite common for demolition in one apartment to cause cracks and dust in a neighbor's apartment. These are all damages the co-op wants to protect against.

For all of these reasons, a shareholder may expect to have to agree to a variety of terms and conditions, some of which may be negotiable and most of which are not, before any work begins. The most important thing to the co-op is knowing exactly what work is being proposed. The co-op can assess that by examining the drawings prepared by the shareholder's architect. Once the co-op approves these drawings, the approved design is "fixed" as far as the building is concerned. Any revisions or major deviations may have to be approved by the co-op. This protects the building from situations where shareholders go too far with the work and exceed what was agreed to.

I handled a case where a shareholder had exceeded what the co-op had authorized and the board was insisting that the work be ripped out and the building wall be restored. After a lot of negotiation, a settlement with the co-op was achieved and the work was left intact.

The shareholder certainly should expect to reimburse the building for any expenses it incurs in connection with the renovation, e.g., fees to have an architect review the plans for the co-op; legal fees; and fees to remove any mechanic's liens. The co-op does not want to pay out-of-pocket because a shareholder wants to renovate his apartment.

The co-op will also be concerned about the length of time the work will continue and its effect on neighbors. Thus, it is increasingly common to see co-ops requiring completion dates and assessing liquidated damages for each day the project goes beyond that. Some buildings have specified times of the year when renovations can take place. Contractors performing the work must be very careful about committing to completion dates because the co-op's damage provisions are usually passed along to the contractor in his contract.

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2 Comments

  • how long are you supposed to keep the renovation records , as approvals of the board ? is the board also responsible for keeping records ? in the event your records have been destroyed by flood , fire what happens ?
  • The doorman just handed me a letter from my new neighbor. This is a prewar coop. We share a wall. The letter states that " alteration work will begin Jan 20th taking 120-150 days to complete...and, we will ensure any damage to your apt caused by the alterations in our apt will be repaired at a reasonable cost by our contractors. " It goes on to say, "In order to enaure to take advantage of the foregoing indemnification, you must permit our designated representative to inspect your apt prior to the commencement of our alterations". Then they give two dates ( today and tomorrow ) as the only options and a phone number. The apt is currently empty. This does not sit well with me. It sounds like they are planning on destruction! What in your opinion is the best way to handle this? They kind of have me over a barrel. I don't relish the idea of being approached like this, nor do I want stranger's traipsing through here. The implication is, if you don't let us into your apt we won't pay for damages should they occur. They are covering THEIR asses, but what about mine? Thanks. Disgruntled and feeling put upon in Manhattan