Not every co-op or condo in New York City has grassy areas on the property. But for those that do, the question of what is allowed on them often comes up. Sure we’ve all passed by buildings surrounded by lush grass lawns protected by a sign reading “keep off the grass.” Yet the issue isn’t quite as clear cut as those signs would have us believe. As it turns out, there is quite a bit of thought and consideration that goes into putting that sign up.
“So long as the bylaws don’t prohibit it, an association can ban people from going on the grass, among other things,” says real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, founding partner of the New York City-based law firm Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. “The board of directors has jurisdiction over running the common elements, so they can do what’s in the best interest of the shareholders. They can regulate [playing on the grass] and ban it if necessary.”
Changing the Rules Is Complicated
As with most things in a co-op or a condo, the board’s jurisdiction is limited by their bylaws and governing documents. While these documents often give the board a lot of latitude with what they can do concerning the common areas, controlling whether people can use the grass for activities can be a bit of a hassle.
“If the co-op previously allowed people to go on the grass, it makes it harder to ban people from going on it. Although, if the corporate documents give the board the jurisdiction to oversee those areas they can still take it away,” says Bailey.
While the governing documents might give the board the right to take such action, banning something that was previously allowed isn’t an easy task. “It depends on the corporate documents and usually the board has a lot of latitude in what they can do. However if it’s in the offering plan—it says the grass can be used for these activities—you’d need an amendment to the bylaws to ban those activities, which usually requires 66.6 percent [approval] of the shareholders,” says Bailey.