Running the Gauntlet Understanding the Co-op Admission Process

Talk about tense situations. There’s the sweaty-palm inducing job interview or the anxiety-riddled prospect of getting down on one knee to propose. And who can forget those tense moments scratching out an answer on the SAT test, knowing your future hangs on the difference between answer A and B. Those moments, however, are all child’s play when it comes to the pinnacle of the high-pressure situation: applying to live in a New York City co-op.

From Madonna to P. Diddy to the CEO down the street, every shareholder has experienced the fear of the co-op application process. Any number of things can keep a prospective buyer out of a building, from inadequate financial assets to a high-profile lifestyle that may be a bit too much for the neighbors. For boards, however, there are strict guidelines involved in acceptances and rejections, and with disgruntled applicants all too ready to call their lawyers, those boards are paying more attention than ever to the rules and regulations.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Last year, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) joined with the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums (CNYC) to produce a Co-op Board Admissions Guide. The guide outlines the basic application process and explains the anti-discrimination requirements that all boards must follow.

While the document reminds readers that “the right of the Board of Directors of a cooperative to allow or withhold consent from a sale, for any reason or for no reason, has been recognized and protected by the courts,” it goes on to remind board members clearly that they must comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act and the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws.

There also are 14 protected categories “under which claims can be brought against a New York City cooperative, either in the courts or before a city, state or federal administrative body if a prospective purchaser believes that a rejection was due to discrimination.” Those categories include: age, alien status, children (or childless state), country of national origin, creed, disability, gender (including gender identity), lawful occupation, marital status, military status, partnership status, race, religion and sexual orientation. It is unlawful to discriminate or refuse to sell or rent to a person based on any of those 14 categories.

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