In: cooperative management
August 9, 2017
Beginning October 1, 2017, pursuant to Local Law 86 of 2017, the regulations regarding providing heat during the nighttime hours have changed. During the Heat Season (October 1 – May 31), property owners must maintain an indoor temperature of 62 degrees inside all apartments at all times.
The former outdoor temperature trigger of 40 degrees outdoors is no longer in play and heat will now always need to be provided. This is also a 7 degree difference inside, as the old regulations provided for the landlord to provide heat to 55 degrees inside when the temperature fell below 40 degrees outside.
If the inside temperature falls below 62 degrees, tenants may file a complaint about inadequate heat with 311. Please take necessary action to ensure that your heating system will be provide heat according to the law beginning October 1st. Daytime heat must still be provided at a minimum of 68 degrees once it is below 55 degrees outside and hot water must be still be maintained at 120 degrees.
Between the years of 1992 and 2013 buildings that carried an assessed value of less than $40,000 were eligible to file for a J-51 for renovation work that qualified for the abatement. In 2013, the limits were tightened to an assessed value of $30,000 or less, leaving a large chunk of middle-income buildings in the lurch when it came to receiving abatements to offset the very expensive work that they were doing.
As per NYC Department of Environmental Protection Code, Buildings in New York City are now required to perform a tune up/overhaul and efficiency test on an annual basis by a certified technician. In addition, it is now required that all buildings keep a log book of maintenance of the boiler. The super must sign this book weekly. If this maintenance and testing is not performed by the end of each calendar year, the building will be subject to a fine.
Many buildings, both large and small, manage their properties in-house, without a professional management company involved. These buildings can be cooperatives or condominium complexes (or a mixture thereof). There’s certainly a benefit to self-management; the building saves on the fee that they would pay an outside company, but in some cases the dollars saved are not what they seem to be. There’s an upside to everything, but also a downside. Let’s explore this more in depth.
Flip Taxes are a tool in Cooperative buildings all throughout New York City. Essentially, they’re a tax (or a fee) that the Cooperative collects at the closing of an apartment that is transferring hands between outgoing and incoming Shareholders.
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.
Did you know that if you reside in a building in New York City that is between 5 and 75 residential units and a customer to either ConEd gas or electric service, you are qualified to obtain a FREE ConEd Green Team Survey by a Green Team energy professional? As part of a program to incentivize buildings, and residential occupants, to save energy by using more energy efficient products, the Green Team professionals will evaluate all of your lighting and heating equipment and will offer energy-saving recommendations throughout your property.
The survey will arrive to the building owner or manager and will provide all of the information that you need in order to make a decision, based on their recommendations. There is no requirement to abide by their recommendations at any time.
In addition to the free survey report and recommendations, a Green Team professional will also install free CFL’s, water saving devices and smart strips in residential units. There is also the possibility of building owners receiving rebates for eligible upgrades to common area equipment, including lighting fixtures, LED exit signs, HVAC and building management systems.
To sign up for the survey or to obtain information on the process, you can call ConEd directly at 877-634-9443
Have you run into this scenario before; a Board member resigns during their term and the Board of Directors (or Managers), collectively, appoints a replacement to the position that was just vacated? It should be smooth sailing and without issue, but if this is a cooperative or condominium with an opinionated ownership base, they’ll want to know why the new Board member wasn’t appointed by the shareholders or owners, as a whole.
While it would seem that putting it out to all shareholders or unit owners would be a great idea, it’s not often done, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that it is difficult to get all shareholders and owners to another meeting that is not the Annual Meeting and it is much quicker to appoint someone who is interested in serving on the Board for the remainder of this term. In some cases, there may be a committee member who has been serving on the periphery of the Board and this is a great opportunity to increase their level of participation, if it has been shown that they have something to offer, beyond just filling an open seat.
The reason that the Board will have the final say of who to appoint, in most cases, is provided for in the Bylaws of the building. For instance, below is a partial section of the Bylaws from a NYC cooperative, as it pertains to Vacancies:
When any vacancy exists or occurs among the directors by death, resignation or otherwise, the same shall be filled for the remainder of the term by a majority of votes cast at a special meeting of the remaining directors duly called for the purpose or at any regular meeting of the directors, even though a quorum shall not be present at such special or regular meeting.
As you can see in the above paragraph, the Board has complete control over who they appoint to fill the remainder of the term that was vacated. This could be a period of only a few months or it could be a multi-year term that the new appointment will fulfill.
Just because an appointment was made to the Board does not mean that the shareholders or unit owners are completely without hope if they absolutely disagree with the new appointment. If for any reason they are completely unhappy with this appointment, or the Board in general, the could also look to their bylaws to remove either one or more persons from the Board. They would have to follow the passage in the Bylaws that pertains to removal. From the same NYC cooperative bylaws on Removal:
Any director may be removed from office at any time with or without cause and at the pleasure of the shareholders, upon affirmative vote of the shareholders of record taken at a shareholders’ meeting duly called for that purpose; provided, however, that the directors elected by the holders of Unsold Shares can be removed without cause by such holders of Unsold Shares who alone will have the right to designate a replacement.
There’s no way that each and every shareholder or unit owner will be appeased in each situation, and this is a great example of this. More often than not, the Board will have someone in mind to fill a space on the Board if one should become vacant for any reason during the term of service. It’s up to the shareholders or unit owners to take matters into their own hands if they feel their interests are not being properly represented by the existing Board members.
As I always say, if you’re unhappy with the Board you have, throw your name into the ring the next time around and get on the Board to make a change.
The New York City Department of Finance has recently changed its application process for the Co-op and Condo Property Tax Abatement (“CCA”) for unit owners. Unit owners can now apply for the CCA by completing the Homeowner Tax Benefit Application (click here to download). The revised application now includes CCA in addition to other benefits, such as STAR.
The following groups can now apply using this form:
– Unit Owners who purchased their unit / shares by January 5, 2015 are eligible to apply for the 2015 / 2016 tax year (July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016). The filing deadline for this tax period was March 16, 2015.
– Unit Owners who purchased their unit / shares after January 5, 2015 should apply for the 2016 / 2017 tax year when that application (the updated links in this post now point that new link).
Please note that to be eligible, you must must use the subject unit as a primary residence and you can not own more than three residential units in the co-op or condo development.
If the unit is owned by a business entity, such as an LLC or a sponsor, your unit is not eligible for the abatements from the city.
In order to apply for the Abatement, you can view and download the application at this link: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/finance/downloads/pdf/payment_operations/exemptions_appl.pdf or you can call 311 and have the application mailed to you.
In addition, as a new policy that is in effect for 2015, an application will be given out at each closing for a new Shareholder or Unit Owner so that they may have the information as soon as they purchase a unit.
In January 2014, NYC enacted a new rule for those properties that had a retaining wall that is greater than 10-feet high and located on a public right of way. Local Law 37 of 2008 now dictates that all of those properties that fall into that category have their retaining walls inspected every five (5) years to determine if they are Safe, Safe with a Repair and Maintenance or Unsafe.
If you’re familiar with Local Law 11 for the facade, then you’ll be familiar with this as well. Depending on where your building is located, you will need to file in the year that is attributed to your borough.
2016: Staten Island
The DOB provides civil penalties of $1,000 per year for failure to file, plus $250 per month penalty until the property owner is in compliance. Failure to repair an unsafe condition carries a $1,000 per month fine until corrected.
We would recommend that all properties that are now required to inspect and file their properties talk to a local engineer that is qualified to perform the inspection and file on your behalf.