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Co-op Housing Questions on JustAnswer

Housing co-operatives are an alternative means of acquiring a home without buying or renting one. When you buy into a co-op, you get exclusive use of a housing unit by becoming a shareholder in the corporation that owns the property. Co-ops are also usually less expensive than apartments since money is collected from all the residents to pay any outstanding bills.

Listed below are a few questions answered by lawyers on co-op housing related issues.

My neighbor refuses to comply with bedbug inspections on time to prevent the bugs from spreading to other units and common areas. What are the legal steps that a co-op board can take to remedy this situation?

What the co-op can do is sue the neighbor for not maintaining the unit—by way of negligence, waste or private nuisance—in a way that does not interfere with the rights of other property owners. Based on the covenants of the coop, the board can decide whether to levy a fine on the neighbor or not. If the neighbor fails to pay the fine, the co-op should be able to foreclose his/her interests.

If a board member of a co-op housing park abuses the bylaws, can the laws still be enforced?

Yes they can. What you could first do is file a grievance to the board based on the bylaws of the co-op. If the board does not comply with the bylaws, your recourse would be to go to court and sue for a declaratory judgment requesting the court to enforce the bylaws.

My co-op board has threatened to take my co-op unit if I don’t get rid of my puppy. I have medical proof of my depression as well as my daughter’s arthritis. I also have a petition signed by more than 2/3rds of the building wanting the rules about keeping a pet to be changed. What are the legal steps I can take to fight this case?

Your solution is more political and less judicial in nature. If you do have a petition signed by a majority of the building, you could request the board put the issue to vote. You could also try running for office and get other like-minded people who feel the same way about the rule, to run as well. Your medical condition, however, would not exempt you from the rules as there is no law to support such a position.

I own shares in a Mitchell-Lama Co-op that is fighting a case in housing court. The court didn’t grant them attorney fees. Can the co-op then charge the fees to me?

If the court did not grant them the lawyer’s fees, then you it is unlikely you would be liable for the fees.

I live with a roommate in New York and my co-op board is attempting to change the bylaws to say that roommates are not allowed. Does real property law 235-f apply here?

In New York, RPL 253(f) does not apply to a co-op or a condo as the primary occupants in both of these are owners and not tenants. If co-op procedures are executed properly, then roommates can be barred. But it will not be easy to apply this rule retroactively.

Many co-ops are designed for specific groups like senior citizens. They also have more stringent ownership requirements that make them exclusive and secure. As a member of a co-op, you should be aware of all the rules of your co-op.
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