Use vs. Abuse—and How to Tell the Difference Limits of Board Power

 Everybody sometimes disagrees with the decisions of their co-op or condo board.  Maybe the choice to rearrange the garbage receptacles out front seems  ridiculous, or the ongoing clattering of machinery on the roof is driving the  top-floor residents nuts and the board seems determined to let it fix itself.  These are the kinds of inevitable complaints that every board has to deal with  sooner or later, and most manage to handle such issues with prudence and  aplomb.  

 But what if the board does things that seem to be beyond the pale—perhaps even illegal? Where do boards’ powers end? And how do co-op and condo boards differ in this respect?  

 Apples and Oranges

 To begin with, there are substantial differences between co-op and condo boards.  One major difference, according to experts, is that co-op boards generally have  a greater power over things like sales and sublets, since the board’s approval is required for applicants.  

 “Condo boards generally have only a right of first refusal in such matters, which  they rarely exercise,” says attorney Stephen W. O’Connell of the Manhattan law firm Hartman & Craven LLP. Co-op boards, he adds, must also deal with underlying building  mortgage financing, whereas he says “Condo boards spend more time on assessments, since that is the usual way boards  raise money for capital improvements.”  

 But it’s not that simple. Even between one co-op and another, or one condo and another,  the powers given to the board may vary.  


Related Articles

Boards and the Law

How Statute and Governing Documents Intersect

Bankrolling the Board

The Question of Compensation

The Co-op as Legal Entity

New York City’s Housing Model



  • I live in a Mitchell-lama co-op, can a board charge a shareholder a fee to use its own community room. This is not what the Mitchell-lama rules state. It says a reasonable janitorial fee and a refundable deposit. That are charging $325 usage fee. no refund.
  • President of Board not living up to fiduciary duties abusing shareholders Ignoring shareholders letter /Emails Receiving mendacious letters from Boards lawyers Protocol is to advise all employees of building to disrespect and be dishonest to shareholders No protection for shareholders who cannot afford a lawyer Abuse beyond the pale More protection needed for shareholders