NYC Property Management Info
Effective September 3, 2015, New York City will have amended their City Human Rights Law (N.Y. City Admin Code Sec. 8-107(24)) to preclude employers from utilizing consumer credit reports and credit history as a basis for hiring decisions. Essentially, most employers will no longer be allowed to run credit reports or obtain credit history from applicants. Employers can also not use this information, if received, as a basis for hiring or not hiring an applicant.
July 26, 2015
Are you thinking of buying an apartment in either a cooperative or a condominium building? Perhaps you’ve already visited your dream apartment and are ready to place an offer, or you’ve already placed that offer and now await the dreaded Board package to be sent in (and hopefully approved). Whatever stage you’re in, reviewing the items that I’ve listed below will help you steer clear of a problem building and minimize your chances for a rude awakening once you move in.
1. Walk Through All Common Areas: I remember when a friend asked me to come with him to a Great Neck, NY cooperative that he was looking into purchasing. The apartment itself was nice, but when we were walking through the top-floor hallway and then looked at the staircase to the roof, the walls and ceilings were in deplorable condition. Obviously, this wasn’t a part of the apartment that he would be purchasing, but the fact that the cooperative Board hadn’t taken care of their common property lead me to believe that when a Shareholder has an issue with a Cooperative-responsible item within the apartment (it will arise, eventually), the care, craftsmanship and high-priority that it should take may not be there. Thankfully, he passed on this apartment and went to a better maintained building.
2. What Is The Recent Bed Bugs History? In New York City, all apartments that change hands are required to include a Bed Bugs History form, alerting the new tenant of the apartment to any bed bugs in the building within the past year. You’ll learn if the building had them on the floor and if they were or weren’t treated. I take bed bugs so seriously that one of my more popular blog posts and videos on my website are on this topic. Granted, bed bugs are everywhere, but if there was a recent outbreak in the building, this should be a cause of concern.
Bed bugs spread very easily and can live for a year without feeding (in a multi-family building this will never happen as there is always a source of food – unlike a cabin in the woods that is unoccupied for months at a time). You want to make sure that if there was a recent outbreak, that building management took the preventative steps in order to both eradicate the infestation and then testing after the treatments to ensure that they were actually removed from the property.
3. Have Your Attorney Read The Building’s Minutes: I recommend to all clients that their meeting minutes should be as sparse as possible (they’re a legal document after all and shouldn’t be used as a word-for-word recap of the meeting), but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be valuable information located within them. If you’re looking to purchase a particular apartment, you can get a sense if there are any overriding issues within either your apartment, in your line of apartments or in the building, in general. You may even find some information about a possible problem-neighbor that you can avoid as well.
Minutes will also be a good source of learning about the financial condition of the building, the major upcoming projects (we want to see how they’ll be funded and if the Unit Owners or Shareholders can expect to be hit with an increase or with an assessment, etc.) and will also give you a window into how the Board / building operates. Purchasing is a two-way street. As much as the Board, in a Cooperative, is interviewing a prospective purchaser at the interview, the purchaser is doing the same thing; sizing up the Board and the way that they run their building.
4. How Responsive Is The Management Company During The Application Process? The application stage is a good reference point for any potential purchaser as to how the Management company will treat you once you get into the building. We have Boards that specifically ask in an interview how the Management company treated them during the process, so this is important on both ends. If you’re calling and e-mailing and you’re not getting any response from the Management company while you are in the process of purchasing, this is a sure sign that when you’re an actual Shareholder or Unit Owner, you may get the same treatment.
5. Review The Financial Statements Over Multiple Years: This item should go without saying. To make sure that the building you’re purchasing into is financially solvent, you’ll want to either review their Financials yourself, or have your attorney / accountant review for you. You’ll begin to see patterns on expenditures, get an insight into their current financing and will see if they’re burning a lot more than is coming in. Just like any business, if they’re spending more than they’re making, you want to make sure that the expenditures were for the right reasons and that there are sufficient reserves should they run out of operating cash.
There are so many questions and scenarios that as a purchaser you should be looking for. These five questions above are a good starting-point to start your internal conversation to negotiate with yourself, initially, if the building that you may potentially buy into is a good fit for you.
More often than not, switching Managing Agents is a daunting task for the existing Board. The Board / Manager relationship is one that is intertwined (almost as intimate as a marriage) and although some are switching after a short period of time, many are leaving behind 10+ years of hand-in-hand relationships.
At your cooperative closing, if you are obtaining a mortgage to finance the purchase, you’ll notice that the managing agent hands over at least two original copies of a Recognition Agreement to the bank that is lending you the funds, and then an original is also kept by the building’s Property Manager. So, what is the Recognition Agreement and why do we need it?
July 14, 2015
In a Cooperative, the Board of Directors has a lot of leeway when approving or rejecting a proposed sale of shares (of course, they can only deny for legal reasons), but in a Condominium, since there is no Proprietary Lease and the apartments are all fee-simple in ownership, the Right of First Refusal plays an important part in how the Board of Managers can impact a pending sale or lease agreement. A Right of First Refusal is the mechanism that gives the Board the option of stepping into the proposed deal on behalf of all unit owners, instead of allowing the deal to go through with the purchaser that has submitted an application to purchase.
Property Managers often get asked by residents: “I’m only painting my apartment – why do I need to get Board or Management approval”? The answers lies with liability and insurance coverage. We’re not so concerned with the muted shades of gray that you intend to roll on the walls as we are with ensuring that the contractor you’re bringing into the building is properly licensed and insured.
In most Bylaws or Proprietary Leases that you’ll encounter, there is a provision that alterations cannot be undertaken without the consent of the Board or the Lessor. In the painting case above, we want to make sure that your painting company has general liability, auto and umbrella coverage. In addition, if they have a staff that will be working on the project, they have to provide proof of Workman’s Comp protection also. Typically, these policies name both the Cooperative / Condominium and the Managing Agent as additionally insured, just in case something should happen while they are on site (that could be damage to the unit in question, common areas, neighboring apartments or to any individual; an employee or not).
In this case, if an apartment is being painted and it is pre-1978, we can assume that this is an apartment that has lead paint on the walls and as such, an EPA Lead Safe Certified contractor will need to provide proof that they have the certification and will need to follow the guidelines set forth in the framework of those procedures.
Not all alterations are limited in scope to painting. Electrical, plumbing and structural work all need approval from the appropriate parties in your building and once these topics are broached, more information (permits, licenses, sealed drawings, architect review and more) will be required before a formal approval is given. The larger in scope, the more detailed the plans will be needed.
At the end of the day, the work that you do in your apartment, so long as it is represented and filed properly, is the business of the resident, but the property manager has the entire building in its sights to ensure that those who are entering to do the work, and the work itself, will not harm either the occupants or the structural integrity of the building as a whole.
July 2, 2015
“Limited Common Element” is a term that is thrown out into the wild occasionally but is a characteristic that presents itself in most buildings. Many people are unsure what it means and if they are affected by it, so with the below examples we can dive deeper for a better understanding.
If your building still operates with a boiler that runs on oil, or if you have an active storage tank that holds oil, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation requires that your building keep an active permit, which is due for renewal every five years, for each and every active tank. The Bulk Storage Certificate is required for any size tank and depending on the size of your specific tank, there will be varying filing fees.
Property management, particularly in the New York City metro area, is a highly specialized field that handles tremendous, valuable assets. The barrier to entry into our field is pretty low, with a number of fly-by-night companies and inexperienced managers / companies in the field. They’re able to take on clients due to their cheaper pricing, which in many cases is the sole litmus test used by property owners and boards for their management hires. This begs to raise the question; should property managers and management companies be licensed in the State of New York or should it stay as it is; with no major restrictions or hurdles to jump over?
If you look to the state of Florida, real estate management companies are required to be Licensed Community Association Management firms and individual managers are required to possess the Community Association Manager license as well. Both of these licenses are obtained by passing background checks with the Federal Government, taking specialized courses, passing course tests, passing state level tests and then attending continuing education every two years. Once these tests are passed a license is issued through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and then the licensees and the firms are held accountable for their actions and also held liable for any violations of the state-level regulations. Rules are changing constantly and it is up to the licensee to ensure that they are following the law as it is written. No such laws or oversight exist in New York State.
In New York State, and a reason why so many real estate brokers turn to management in a downturn, a property management firm must be a Licensed Real Estate broker in order to collect rent (or maintenance / common charges) on behalf of the owner. Many companies do not know this law as it is not widely known and as a result do not maintain an active broker’s license for the firm. Other than that provision, there is no obligation by the management company to follow any statutes of law that relate specifically to the management of properties and the fiduciary responsibilities of a managing agent to the owner of the property. Of course all laws have to be followed with regards to the maintenance of a property and each property should be run efficiently in a law-abiding way, but there is no oversight at this time from the state to make sure that those who are running these properties themselves are both with a clean record and properly trained for the position.
Could the various buildings owners and boards in the area benefit from a systematic overhaul of the current system that would ensure that all of the employees managing their accounts be licensed and up-to-date with all current regulations and responsibilities? I think so. It would take a lot of work on both the state end and also with each individual property management company, but in the end it could benefit those who need it the most; the property owners who rely on us, as professionals, to maintain and properly manage their valuable assets.
– Mark Levine, RAM, CAM