The Real.Est List
Midtown condo dweller protests threat of fines and time-outs
A frustrated Midtown condo resident has taken his or her beef with a “very controlling” board online, posting a memo allegedly distributed yesterday that threatens to impose $500 fines on residents who harass their neighbors or the staff.
The memo also threatens a time-out for bad behavior: It states that the board will “revoke the use of the concierge and other non-emergency staff related services for a period of time if a Unit Owner, tenant or occupant fails or refuses to treat the building staff and other employees in a respectful and professional manner.”
Characterizing the move as an intimidation tactic, the resident posted the memo on StreetEasy.com to find out whether it was legally enforceable.
Cooper Square Realty, the property management firm whose name appears on the leaked memo, declined to comment to BrickUnderground.
We asked real estate lawyer Aaron Shmulewitz what he thought.
“Attempts like these are not uncommon,” says Shmulewitz, noting that they are sometimes pretexts to stifle dissent and sometimes legitimate attempts to curb abusive behavior.
Assuming the bylaws give the board the requisite authority, says Shmulewitz, “I think it’s likely that a court would find such provisions unenforceable as being overly broad and too vague.”
“Moreover, ‘verbal abuse,’ ‘harassing behavior,’ and ‘a respectful and professional manner’ are all extremely subjective concepts,” he points out. “One resident’s criticism of an employee for not helping her with her packages could conceivably be construed as violating one of those standards.”
Practically speaking, fines and time-outs for bad behavior usually serve to re-enrage abusive residents—and potentially put the whole building’s property values at risk by airing grievances online.
“There really is no effective way to stop a resident from mouthing off toward staff or neighbors if he/she is un-neighborly enough to want to do so,” says Shmulewitz.