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Ask an Expert: Does my condo board have the right to approve my visitors?

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Q. I've been renting a condo I own to Airbnb guests, and the board told me to stop via the management company. I'm ok with that. But they posted a sign on my front door that said any visitors not approved by the board would be trespassing and the police would be called. I'm not ok with that, since I still think I have the right to send friends and family to stay, and prospective longterm renters. 

What are my rights are as an owner if I'm not Airbnb-ing? Can I have visitors as I see fit? Does the board have a right to call the police when people are visiting my apartment but there is no disturbance?

A. Your board may be overstepping, say our experts.

Since you have "a history of violating both condo rules and zoning law, your building is saying they want to keep a close eye to confirm you are not going to continue," says Roberta Axelrod, a real estate broker and asset manager with Time Equities who sits on many boards as a sponsor's representative.

To determine whether there is any bite in your board's bark, carefully examine your condominium’s declaration, by-laws and rules and regulations, which state your rights and duties as an owner,

"It would be highly unusual for the guests of a condominium unit owner to be subject to board approval," says Kelly Ringston, a real estate attorney at Braverman Greenspun. "It is more likely that the board, pursuant to its general authority to manage the condominium and its common areas, can require you to submit what is commonly known as a 'permission to enter' form.  A PTO form typically identifies your guest and the length of his or her stay and authorizes the condominium’s staff to grant your guest access to the building in your absence."

As for renting your apartment, a lease term of less than 30 consecutive days violates both New York State and New York City law--and therefore your building's rules as "even if the condominium’s governing documents do not explicitly prohibit transient occupancy, they likely contain a provision requiring units to be used in a lawful manner," explains Ringston.

Longterm leases are an entirely different matter.

It's unlikely that your building's rules and bylaws give it the power to approve or reject a prospective tenant.

"It is much more likely that the bylaws contain a provision granting the board a right of first refusal," says Ringston.  After reviewing information that you submit about the tenant and the lease terms, "the board then has the option to exercise its right of first refusal and lease the unit itself for the same terms and conditions offered by the tenant or to waive its right of first refusal, allowing the tenant to occupy the unit."  

As for your board's threat to have the police deal with unapproved guests?

It is free to call anytime it wants but "assuming that the presence of your guests or longterm tenants complies with your condominium’s governing documents, and in the absence of a nuisance, disturbance or other unlawful condition, there is little risk that the police will take any action against you or your occupants," says Ringston.


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