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Ask an Expert: Does our co-op's 80% carpet rule apply to the renters upstairs?

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Q.  I live in a co-op where the sponsor still owns and rents out 30% of the units.   The house rules and proprietary lease both require that all apartments be 80% carpeted, but the renter who lives above me in a sponsor-owned unit hasn't carpeted the floors, and the noise is loud and disruptive.

Do our house rules and proprietary lease apply to the sponsor's apartments?

 A.  A co-op's house rules and proprietary lease apply to sponsors, say our experts, but they frequently contain special exceptions for sponsors, who draft these documents to begin with.

Often "the governing documents afford the sponsor greater rights than other shareholders," says co-op and condo attorney Scott Greenspun of Braverman Greenspun, such as allowing the sponsor "to sell or sublet its apartments without board approval."

That said, explains Greenspun, "it is unlikely that the governing documents would exempt a sponsor-owned apartment from compliance with the 80% carpeting rule."

You can check the documents themselves (or ask the property manager).  However, even if the carpeting rules do apply to sponsor apartments, your problems may not end there.

"The difficulty here is securing enforcement of the rule," says co-op and condo attorney Dean Roberts of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus. That's because there is no direct legal relationship between you and the sponsor as a shareholder. There is even less of a legal relationship between you and the sponsor's tenant.

"Therefore, it's extremely difficult [for you] to apply direct legal pressure," says Roberts.

He suggests writing to the managing agent and/or the board detailing your problems and requesting that they address the matter with the sponsor shareholder.

"An alternative would be to seek a mediation either through the managing agent or through programs offered through the New York Court system to resolve the problem directly with the subtenant of the sponsor's apartment," says Roberts, noting that "the carpet rule and the problems associated with it are common in New York apartments, but are notoriously difficult to resolve satisfactorily."

Real estate attorney Adam Stone of Regosin, Edwards, Stone & Feder offers a practical approach.

"I had a similar situation with a client who owns a co-op beneath the sponsor's renter," he says. "My client volunteered to contribute some money to cover the cost of extra thick padding for underneath the carpeting."


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