All is Not Quiet on the Co-op/Condo Home Front

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:01

    Co-op and condo owners may finally get legal reprisal, a way to level the playing field so "bossy boards" who "rule" instead of manage will have to justify their decisions to a higher power: The Office of the Co-op/Condo Ombudsman. That's if bill AB00034 in the State Assembly passes to law.

    If this bill makes it out of the NY State Assembly, it will catch New York State up to many other states that have already taken into account the injustices of the current process when disputes arise between boards and owners and owners/owners.

    The first thing an owner with grievances does is refer to the bylaws and house rules. Solutions are usually black and white, but getting enforcement is gray.

    As it stands now, our owner will try to deal through the superintendent, the managing agent and maybe even a personal letter to the board of directors. If those actions still don't produce a resolution, then the owner must engage an attorney, pay out at least $300-$700 for that first letter to officially rehash his complaint. If the board still resists in addressing the problem, then a second letter will go the insurance company. Essentially the owner is now taking legal action against his co-op/condo himself, to enforce his rights under his bylaws.

    The board members are protected by personal liability insurance, but too many letters against a board and the insurance company's flag goes up. The building gets more expensive to insure, or refused insurance all together. At the end of the process, essentially the owner has jumped the hoops but is still nowhere close to satisfaction.

    Boards use that "business judgment rule" to protect themselves if they break the bylaws and thus turns the wheel of the current co-op/condo process.

    Wouldn't it be better if there was a legal mediator, a local real estate lawyer, a guru of bylaws, to render an enforceable and timely decision? Life is too short for these conflicts that tend to go on for years and make enemies of neighbors.

    Let's go New York State and get that Office of the Co-op and Condo Ombudsman passed. Owners need a say - it's their home after all.

    Julie Moses lives on the Upper East Side