We The People Shareholder Rights and Responsibilities

When cooperators elect their boards of directors, and condo owners elect their community association or boards of managers, they do so in the expectation that these boards will represent their interests.

But conflict between boards and shareholders or condo unit owners is inevitable and tensions can rage over issues ranging from dogs to cell-phone antennas to financial improprieties. Some owners may come to feel that the board is working against them.

"In every building, you will have one or two or three unit owners who don't like certain things in their building," says Eric Gonchar, an attorney with the Manhattan-based law firm of Kane Kessler, PC. But what happens when it ceases to be mere discontent, and becomes something more serious?

The Ground Rules

To begin with, everyone must understand the ground rules. According to the New York State Attorney General's Office, co-ops are established under the state's Business Corporation Law (although some older co-ops were established under the older Cooperative Corporations Law), while condos are established under the Condominium Act. "When there is a gap [in the co-op or condo's internal documents], look to the statutes," says Attorney Adam Finkelstein of Wagner Davis & Gold, PC.

The internal rules are spelled out in a labyrinth of documents that can often be confusing to the layman. In a co-op, they are spelled out in the bylaws, the proprietary lease, the certificate of incorporation and the house rules. In a condo, those rules are typically set forth in the bylaws, the condominium declaration and the house rules.


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  • Thanks for the information, very helpful. Do you recommend to contact the Attorney General if a crime has not be committed? My situation: Steam pipe leak underneath my co-op floor (bedroom and living room) and still waiting for repairs since 10/07/07, apartment is inhibitable. Managing agent says it my responsiblites for repair, is that correct?
  • any recommendations for condo owners who wish to dispute a cell phone tower being installed? what steps can we take to fight this? do we even have an rights? thanks
  • Regarding the steam pipe leak repairs: The co-op must pay to fix the actual pipes underneath the floor and replace them. If they destroyed the floor within that perimeter on the floor (if they had to pull the flooring up) they should repair the floor but you may have to pay for the flooring material. They should be willing to negotiate it with you. Definitely contact the Attorney General's office and the Co-Op President and Board of Directors in writing. Copy your attorney on the letter. Good luck.
  • W CHUNG, your steam pipe problem is the coops problem.Remember ,you only own shares in the coop and do not own the apt. itself. You are like a rentee and the apt is the coops ownership CONTACT THE AG. TIME IS MONEY
  • Cell towers (8 antennas) installed 25 feet from my top floor co-op. The obstruct my view, cast shadows on windows. They are actually 12 feet above an adjacent unit (sponsor rental.) My unit is devalued (let alone possible health issues). As fiduciaries, what is the Board's requirement to rectify this? The towers are on an elevator bulkhead of a recessed courtyard. Never seen that location in other buildings - only on street side perimeters. Help!