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Can my co-op make me get rid of my washer and dryer?

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Question:

When I bought my co-op it came with a washer and dryer, which I was told verbally were grandfathered in, in spite of more recent house rules against washers and dryers. I recently replaced the washer, and now the board is telling me I must remove it. I have no written proof that they gave me verbal permission for a washer and dryer, but can they really refuse one after giving me approval when I first purchased?

Answer:

There may be a way for you to keep your new washer, but the lack of a written agreement will work against you, say our experts.

Barring a written agreement that they agreed to your washer and dryer in perpetuity, "the board can ask you to remove an existing or replacement washer and dryer," says Corcoran broker Deanna Kory.

"Typically, when a house rule is created, existing non-complying subjects such as pets, non-conforming to a standard window types, or a washer and dryer are 'grandfathered'," in, adds Thomas Usztoke, vice president of Douglas Elliman Property Management, but usually with the idea that your exception will be phased out eventually—for instance, when it comes time to install a new washer. "The premise is that the rule applies going forward," he adds.

However, you still have some potential options. "An important question is how long the washer and dryer have been in place and who the 'they' are who granted permission," says Dean Roberts, a co-op and condo attorney with Norris, McLaughlin, & Marcus. If it was simply the seller who told you that the washer and dryer were kosher, you may be out of luck.

But if the issue was discussed with the board, or if the co-op has clearly known about (and tacitly approved of) your washer and dryer for a long enough time, "the co-op may have waived its right to object," says Roberts. (That is, assuming your new replacement washer is not so substantially different from the old one that past permissions no longer apply—for instance, swapping a small portable washer for a full-sized one that requires plumbing.) 

It's also becoming more common for apartment dwellers who want in-apartment laundry facilities to claim that they're necessary for a medical reason, says Roberts, such as allergies, and request "reasonable accommodation" from the co-op, similar to what you might do in a request for a service animal.

Next time around, says Roberts, "it's always better to get some type of written representation from either the managing agent or the co-op itself about exceptions to the co-op's rules and regulations."
 


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