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Concerns over therapists in the lobby

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Q. My co-op building owns a one-bedroom apartment off the lobby that has always been rented to a private individual.  It was recently vacated, and the board believes it can make more money renting to a therapist than to another regular tenant.

I have concerns about this option, as I do not like the idea of non-resident and possibly mentally unbalanced people having access to the rest of the building.  We do not even  have a doorman who can keep an eye out and make sure that patients exit as they should.  

Does the board have a right to possibly endanger the welfare of residents like this?

If it does, are there any precautions that can be taken to protect the residents?


A:  According to our BrickTank experts, your board has the right to lease the space to a therapist so long as it’s allowed under your building’s certificate of occupancy and local zoning laws.

As far as your concerns about allowing “mentally balanced people” into the building, renting a lobby space to a therapist is quite common. And unlike renting to a parole office, it does not appear to raise safety issues to a degree that might support a legal action your against your board, says real estate lawyer Dean Roberts.

Instead, try sharing your concerns with your board, encouraging at a minimum that the board be mindful of the type of practice they allow in, says property manager Thomas Usztoke.

“Surely the board’s objective is not to endanger anyone’s welfare,” says Usztoke. 

As you may not be the only resident with concerns, consider asking the board to poll  shareholders, so they can weigh the financial benefits against quality of life concerns.

Your board can also try to address some of your worries in the lease to the therapist.

“The board should insist on a provision which prohibits the use of the building’s lobby and hallways as a waiting area for the doctor’s patients,” says real estate lawyer Jeffrey Reich.  “The lease provision should be strictly enforced.”

Other guidelines to set out in the lease include spelling out how patients can access the building or even requiring patients to be escorted out, notes Usztoke.

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