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Why does my building need to know the cost of my renovations?

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Q: I'm submitting an alteration agreement package to my building's managing agent, and they've asked for the prices of the alterations. Are they really allowed to ask that, and why would they need to know? It seems invasive.

A: While it's understandable to be a little cagey about your spending, your managing agent's request for this information is perfectly legit, say our experts.

The reason? The owner of a building is in charge of putting through the permit applications for individual owners' or shareholders' alterations, and the fees for these applications are based in part on the cost of the work being done, says Jeffrey Reich, an attorney with Schwartz, Sladkus, Reich, Greenberg Atlas LLP. 

"The PW1 form that a property owner [e.g. your managing agent] is required to file in order to obtain a permit from the Department of Buildings requires cost information [about the renovation]," Reich adds, noting that the amount your building will have to pay for the permit will be dependent on the nature (and cost) of the work you have planned. 

On top of that, says Reich, some boards will require you to pay an alteration deposit in case any damage to the building or neighbors' apartments occurs during your renovation. The amount of this deposit is also determined by the cost of your planned work. "If an alteration agreement's security deposit is based on a percentage of the project, its price will be a factor [in determining the size of the deposit]," concurs Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management.

So yes, the request does seem legit. In other words, total privacy to renovate as you please? That's a luxury only found in the suburbs.


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