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Ask an Expert: Is it legal for a co-op to deprive renters of bike space?

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Q. When my rental building went co-op 10 years ago, I chose to remain a renter. Recently, I bought a bike and have been informed that as a renter, I'm not eligible for a basement bike space.  Is this legal???  I've lived in this building for 20 years--don't I have rights?  I should mention that there's one co-op owner whose girlfriend has a bike space, and she doesn't even live in the building! 

If it matters, I am partially disabled, and though it is the same size and shape as other bikes, the bike I bought is specially configured to accommodate my disability. 

A.  According to BrickUnderground's experts, the key to this question is whether the bike room existed prior to your building's conversion from rental to co-op.

"In such a case, the use of the basement may have become a required service under the terms of the tenant's statutory tenancy," says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich.

Real estate lawyer Peter Axelrod concurs.

"If the landlord had provided bike space previously and you are not permitted to avail yourself of that amenity, you may have a claim for reduction in services," says Axelrod.  "However, if this is a new amenity being provided by the cooperative in cooperative-owned space, it may be offered to cooperative owners and their subtenants or roommates, and not to renters who have no direct relationship with the cooperative." 

Moreover, says Axelrod, your disability probably does not entitle you to a bike space.

"You are not being deprived of access due to your disability, but rather because of your legal status as a renter rather than owner," he says.  

Reich, on the other hand, says your disability "may" entitle you an accommodation.

"The nature of the disability would have to be considered in determining whether or not it would be a reasonable accommodation to allow the tenant to store his bicycle in the basement," says Reich.

Property manager Roberta Axelrod suggests that if the bike room has space, you ask the co-op board in writing.

"Some buildings permit tenants to use the bike room, and if there is a charge, to pay the fee directly to the co-op, not the owner of the apartment," she says.


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