Q.  In the co-op building where I own, we're supposedly not allowed to rent out our apartments for longer than two years in any seven year period.

The board has made an exception in at least one case that I know of, in which the same renters have been in place for four years and the apartment's owner (a cousin of the board president fyi) works/lives in London.  

When I asked if it would be possible to extend the one-year lease for my current tenant by another two years, I was refused.  Is this fair?  Is there anything I can do about it?

A. The saying 'rules were made to be broken' also applies to co-ops. According to our experts, boards have broad discretion to bend the rules to account for different circumstances.

When it comes to potential sublets, co-op boards can nix them "for any reason, so long as that reason does not violate federal, state or local anti-discrimination statutes or otherwise run afoul of the law," explains real estate attorney Andreas Theodosiou of Braverman & Associates.

The board can even treat two shareholders differently as long as it has a legitimate, good-faith rationale, says Theodosiou.

It may have approved your neighbor's request based on a showing of financial hardship if the lease was turned down, for example. Or it may have rejected your request because your tenant hasn't behaved him or herself.

Real estate attorney Sandor D. Krauss of SDK recommends that you ask the board to reconsider: "Make an argument that a precedent has been set for this type of exception."

If the board declines to bend, however, you are probably out of luck unless you can demonstrate fraud or self-dealing to a judge.


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