Your roof terrace leaked and the neighbor below you sued for damages. Do you have any recourse? The
heating system in your apartment failed to work and the managing agent sent you the bill for its repair. Do you have to pay? You bought a dog for your child, and six months later the board has demanded that it be removed from the building. Do you have to comply?
The answers to most questions raised by co-op and condo residents are contained in the governing documents of the corporation or, in the case of a condo, the unincorporated association. These documentswhich include the proprietary lease, the by-laws and the house rulesare generally filed away for safekeeping in your attorney's office. Or, perhaps you have a copy that you keep with your other important papers. Whatever the arrangement, these documents should be read (and periodically re-read) by every co-op and condo owner because their contents govern the terms of your ownership as well as your rights and obligations.
A Hierarchy of Documents
To make some sense of the maze of rules, laws, doctrines and codes that affect ownership of shares and property in co-ops and condos it is important to view these documents in some sort of hierarchical order. At the top, in a co-op, is the certificate of incorporation filed with the Department of State as required by Section 402 of the Business Corporation Law of New York State. The equivalent, for condos, is the declaration of the condominium required by Article 9B of the Real Property Law of the State of New York, commonly referred to as the Condominium Act. These documents may contain specific provisions for making amendments. A copy of this document may be obtained from the Secretary of State, Department of State, Division of Corporations, in Albany if it is not available in the corporate files.