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A SoHo condo board has not only severely restricted the elevator privileges of a high-profile penthouse owner who owes over $125,000 in common charges, it also apparently upped the ante by hanging the equivalent of a Wanted poster in the lobby.
Condo board attorney Robert Braverman confirms that the board recently erected an 8.5x11 framed poster in the lobby of 95 Greene Street bearing a photograph of the unit owner, Ken Nahoum, and his companion wearing superhero outfits at a costume party.
"Why aren’t these ‘caped crusaders’ paying their common charges?" the poster apparently queried.
Meanwhile, as foreshadowed six weeks ago in a New York Times story on the building's arrears uproar, the offending unit owners have had their elevator privileges rescinded.
A furious Nahoum filed suit against the board on Friday, asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars for, among other things, the "brazen trampling" of his ownership rights, according to the complaint obtained by BrickUnderground (and attached below as a PDF).
However, it's apparently not uncommon for delinquent owners to lose their amenity privileges, including concierge services and gym access.
"If it's someone who is a professional deadbeat or doesn't have the money, you can't get blood from a stone," says Braverman. "If it's someone who prioritizes who they pay, it can be effective, because the squeaky wheel gets greased."
But can you really deprive a resident of elevator service?
"This is only a six floor building," says Braverman. "There is no legal requirement for there to be an elevator, and the governing documents are quite clear that the board has the power to implement rules and regulations with regard to common elements, of which the elevator is one. And not only did the board pass the bylaws, but they put it to the vote of unit owners, who voted for it unanimously, with, of course, the exception of the affected owner."
While amenity deprivation may be a tactic occasionally deployed against certain owners in default, the courts have not yet weighed in.
"At first blush, it may seem Draconian, but courts have long held that when you move into a condominium, even though you own your apartment, you necessarily subject yourself to a set of obligations, rules and restrictions that you might not otherwise have," says Braverman. "This is one of those instances."
"Ten years ago," he says, "many people in the industry scoffed at the notion that a co-op board could terminate a shareholder’s proprietary lease based upon ‘objectionable conduct’ and then seek eviction of the shareholder without the underlying conduct being subject to judicial review. Then the Court of Appeals in Pullman looked at the co-op’s governing documents and found that, in the absence of bad faith the board’s actions, while decidedly harsh were permissible. I think that is the situation here."