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?
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.