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A NY coop board is charging me penalties and interest

Customer Question
because I disputed a charge...
A NY coop board is charging me penalties and interest because I disputed a charge for a lobby glass that I accidentally broke. They charged me 3 times the usual and customary charge for new glass. They added 8 months of penalties and fees to my maintenance
without warning. I agreed to overpay for the glass and the managing agent agreed to remove the penalities and interest from my bill. I have this in writing and he told me not to pay the fees because they would be adjusted down. The coop board and managing agent have since reniged on the agreement and have continued to charge me penalities and fees on my maintenance bill. I have all documentation, emails and records of conversations regarding this case. I have written letters to the board to no avail. This is causing me a great deal of stress and anxiety and I want to sue the coop board and managing agent for racial discrimination, harassment, defamation of character and get the fees reversed & refund a portion of the glass.
Submitted: 2 years ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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9/27/2015
Real Estate Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Lawyer replied 2 years ago
CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10,244
Experience: I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing HOAs, homeowners, businesses and others in real estate matters.
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Dear Customer,

I am sorry to learn of this situation.

I am not sure what information you need at this point. It appears you have both been a victim of "arbitrary and capricious" enforcement (also called "selective enforcement") and that the co-op violated its settlement agreement that it reached with you (through their agent, the property manager).

You can sue for this and the breach of contract.

(The racial discrimination and harassment charges are less viable claims, you can certainly add them, but I would focus my efforts on the above allegations - that is where the court is going to be able to assist you).

If your damages (the amount in question) is less than $5,000.00 you can sue in small claims court, and you won't need an attorney to represent you. The Courts have a helpful website to assist you (including forms to use in filing your complaint): https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/smallclaims/

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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
Thank you for your advise. I am moving forward with this small claims court case as you advised. I have a few more questions. Should I pay the penalties and interest up to this point in order to stop them from accruing and sue for that amount plus the amount I paid for the glass (less the usual and customary cost) or should I not pay? I don't want to appear I am in agreement with the penalities and interest they already charged me.Also, when filing the claim, do I name the building's board members or the shareholder's corporation, which they represent, in c/o the building's managing company and the managing executive involved?
The decision to continue charging me penalities and interest comes from the board and carried out by the managing agent. Your help is greatly appreciated. I will be sure to rate your service upon your reply. Thanks again!
Customer reply replied 2 years ago
One more question. The reason for filing my claim is not listed. What is the best way to explain the reason I am filing this claim?
Real Estate Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Lawyer replied 2 years ago

You have a choice to make as to how you want to pursue this strategically (I cannot give you strategy guidance on this forum).

  • On the one hand, as a co-op owner, you are technically in a landlord/tenant relationship with the cooperative, and therefore failure to pay fees can result in a "notice to pay or quit" (the precursor to an eviction) and create more problems. Obviously you can assert your defense that the coop is really in the wrong here and that you have fully performed as agreed upon, but I want to make you aware of the issue here (here is an article discussing this relationship in more detail: http://coopandcondo.com/component/flexicontent/9-coop/51-the-great-co-op-secret, albeit in another context).
  • On the other hand, you can simply refuse to pay the additional sum, and sue in small claims for your declaratory relief under the "breach of contract" theory and wait for a small claims judge to render a judgment one way or the other.

The proper entities to name as defendants are the Co-op, and possibly the management. There is no need to name the individuals. (You can do so if you like, but it is likely to simply make the entire matter more procedurally complicated for you, and you must then identify separate causes of action against each of them - which is probably going to require some much more detailed legal analysis than we are talking about in this general "Q&A" type forum here, you are definitely going to want to speak with a local attorney before you go down that route (keep in mind, if you lose these types of cases you run the risk of having to pay their attorney's fees, so it pays to make sure you file clear arguments based on solid legal principles - what you describe: we had a settlement, I paid, now they want more, is a pretty clear "breach of contract" cause of action).

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Real Estate Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Lawyer replied 2 years ago

I apologize for the delayed response, I was without access to internet for several days.

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