Without Rhyme or Reason In Westchester County, and Elsewhere

The age-old battle between applicants and co-op and condominium boards can sometimes seem like a cunning chess match in which the prospective buyers are pawns awaiting to be knighted with the stamp of approval before they are allowed to move into their brand new castle. Under current state law, co-op and condo boards are protected under a veneer of legal precedents that allows them to reject buyers without having to provide a written reason for their decision.

But, new legislation proposed in mid-September in Westchester County by County Executive Andrew Spano may change the rules of consent, and make boards within the 45 municipalities in the region accountable for their actions. Spano recently proposed a bill that would force decision-makers to explain the reasons behind their decisions within five business days after a denial is issued. A similar bill, under consideration by the state Assembly in Albany, is also progressing towards passage and would apply statewide.

"Co-op and condominium boards are not allowed under current law to discriminate against buyers based on such things as race, religion, sexual preference and national origin. But in practice, there is little ability to prevent the possibility of such discrimination because the boards are not required to explain their decisions," says Spano. "This legislation will change that."

Under the legislation, which would amend Section 700.05(h) of the Laws of Westchester County, it would be considered an "unlawful discriminatory practice for any real estate board, or any board of directors of any condominium corporation or cooperative apartment corporation, because of the actual or perceived group identity of any individual, who is otherwise qualified for membership, to exclude or expel such individual from ownership of any unit or apartment or from membership on any such board, or to discriminate against such individual in the terms, conditions and privileges of ownership of any unit or apartment or of membership on any such board."

Subsequently, the bill continues that "in the event that any real estate board, or any board of directors of any condominium corporation or cooperative apartment corporation makes a decision to withhold consent to the sale of a unit or apartment, certificates of stock or other evidence of ownership in such corporation, such board or corporation shall issue a written statement, in the form to be established by the Westchester County Human Rights Commission, to the prospective purchaser which outlines the reasons for the withholding of consent."

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4 Comments

  • Does a cooperative board have the legal right to create their own occupancy guidelines?
  • If the co op does not provide services (such as gas) to all the units - no gas to stoves and no gas for dryers in our laundry rooms. We have to go elsewhere to cook and do our laundry. Can we legally deduct money from our maintenance.
  • Our inept board members fired our state of the art financial management firm w/o telling us-is this legal? Do we have the right to see the new [Urban Link Corp, IL] company's contact and how much and how long it will be for? Thank you so much.
  • My cooperative is struggling with setting member selection criteria that does not violate the Fair Housing laws. So far, any action that results in the denial of housing rings alarm bells for the legal community. I contend that every vacancy is an opportunity to meet the human capital need of future administrative involvement. The second most valuable asset in a housing cooperative is the volunteer energy of the membership. Member selection should focus on the needs of the cooperative and not the need or desire for benefits of cooperative housing by a prospective member! I would like the hear from anyone on this subject. I am President of the BOD in a Maryland Limited Equity cooperative. (NO HUD involvement, debt free, and self managed)