Provided by: Jennifer Kirschenbaum, Esq.
November 16, 2017
I own my Coop/Condo office and I am having trouble getting approvals from the Board, what are my options?
So tough to get approval sometimes. I've asked Jodi Perlman, Esq. to comment for us - Jodi is an experienced member of our Healthcare, Corporate and Real Estate departments. To follow up on this question direct with Jodi, email or call her at JPerlman@kirschenbaumesq.com or (516) 747-6700 x. 326.
Provided by Jodi -
Your Condominium or Cooperative Board (“Board”) is made up of fellow resident volunteers who have an interest in protecting the Building. Board members are required to act reasonably, prudently, and in the best interests of the Building, and to avoid conflicts of interest. Their primary concern is to maintain the property as a whole and your individual unit is secondary to the welfare of the Building. In considering an application for approval of your renovations, the Board’s main concerns are structural integrity of the Building, and noise.
That being said, the best way to obtain Board approval for your alterations is to be thorough, organized, knowledgeable, patient and kind to those involved. In undertaking your project, we would recommend that you follow the steps below.
1. Alterations Agreement and Application. Contact the managing agent for your Building to let them know you plan to perform alterations and request the alteration agreement (including the application) and Building rules and regulations. Alterations Agreements vary by building, but generally detail the scope of work permitted, how the work can be performed, fees you can be expected to pay for the application, approval and construction phases of the project, legal ramifications and indemnification, and insurance coverage requirements. Often, the Building rules and regulations will include restrictions on days, times, or even months during which renovations can be performed. There may also be restrictions on use of elevator and staff or the number of alteration projects that can occur at any given time, and timelines for completion with penalties for delays. Thus, planning ahead is important. The managing agent will work with you and the Board to assist with and, hopefully, facilitate the approval process.
2. Architects and Contractors.
a. If your work will require a permit from the Building Department, then you will need to hire an architect and engineer to draw up plans. You can ask other residents in the Building, the Building Superintendent, or even the managing agent for recommendations of architects who have successfully worked in the Building, as having an architect who is familiar with your Building structure, rules and regulations would put you slightly ahead of the game. Do check references and make sure you are compatible with the architect you choose as he or she will be instrumental in the Board approval process. Once you submit your plans, the Building’s architect will review the plans (at your cost) and, most likely, there will be some back and forth with some questions and revisions to the plans.
b. Building superintendents can also be helpful in selecting your contractor. They know the ins and outs of who works in the Building. Each contractor and subcontractor who performs work at the Building will need to be licensed and insured. Talk to your contractor about including a construction schedule for the work. The more inclusive your Alterations Application is, the less back and forth you should have in the approval process.
3. Board Approval. Make sure your Alterations Application is inclusive, thorough and complete. It should include copies of detailed plans and specifications from an architect who is knowledgeable with both the Building components and applicable state and local codes and compliance matters, copies of architect and engineer’s licenses, and copies of contractor and subcontractor licenses and insurance certificates. Once you receive Board approval, then you can obtain your Building Department permits and commence your work.
4. Communication. Throughout the entire process, communication is critical. Remember that the Board will be concerned with the structural integrity of the Building and the noise and inconvenience to your neighbors (above, below and to the sides). Keep open communication lines with the managing agent and superintendent, who will know what can and cannot be done in the building (for example, most buildings will not allow you to put wet over dry, meaning that you cannot install a bathroom above a neighbor’s living room or bedroom). And be kind to your neighbors! You may even want to bring a fruit basket or bottle of wine and apologize in advance for any inconvenience. Give them your cell number so they can call you with any issues that might be resolvable without Board of managing agent involvement. Following the Building rules and regulations (for example, regarding construction hours and elevator use), and providing regular updates to the superintendent, can be critical for a smoother overall process.
In sum, the best way to avoid delays and overcome what is often not a smooth process is to do your homework and submit through and complete documentation. Be patient, as managing agents can be unresponsive and the process can be slow. Treat others with kindness and respect, as complaints to the managing agent or others about the process or people involved could come back to bite you. Managing agents are instrumental in assisting with Board approval and can instruct the Building staff whether or not to be helpful to you or be a stickler in enforcing the rules and regulations.
We are here to help if you need us!