People like to think that they can do anything they darn well please within their own walls so long as no laws are being broken. Want to paint your walls purple and your ceilings green? Who’s gonna stop you? In the mood for loud music and a long evening of cigar smoking? It’s no one’s business but your own. Or is it?
One of the realities of living in a condo or a co-op is that there are limitations on what homeowners can do to, and in, their apartments. The reasons are pretty obvious. First, it’s more likely that the playing of your Metallica CDs at top volume will bother neighbors who live on the other side of the wall as opposed to the house next door. Second, one of the primary duties of a condo or co-op board is to keep apartment values high. As a result, limitations can be placed in regards to repairs, renovations, noise, odors and other areas.
Just what those limitations are is stated in each building’s governing documents. For most co-ops, the house rules are usually stated in a proprietary lease; in condos, they’re found in the building’s bylaws.
“The basic foundation for a shareholder’s conduct is outlined in the house rules,” says Alex Kuffel of Pride Management in Manhattan. “Beyond that, regarding alterations, there are separate polices that may be addressed in the house rules that require different documentations. For example, you have alteration policies (and) sublet policies, which would be (added as) riders to your house rules.”
The problem can be that owners and shareholders don’t know what’s in their building’s documents. One example regards the subleasing of apartments. Condos are starting to stipulate that subleases last at least a year. Before that, some owners treated apartments like a hotel room, renting it for months or weeks at a time, making the building feel more transient. “Condos are becoming more creative in designing their house rules, almost to mirror a co-op.”