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Ask an Expert: My ex- moved out. Will the co-op board cut me a break on my maintenance?

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
May 29, 2012 - 1:10PM

Q. I live in a co-op that I bought with my ex-, who moved a few months ago.  I am in financial hardship right now. I'm trying to sell but it's not looking too good so far.

If I alert my building management/board of my hardship, is there any chance of them lowering my monthly maintenance? Is there anything I may be able to do to either have my mortgage and/or maintenance lowered?

A.  In a best-case scenario, your board might work out a payment plan, say our experts, but don't expect forgiveness of your obligations, no matter how sympathetic your board is.

"Lowering maintenance is not an option for a co-op," says real estate attorney Sandor Krauss. Maintenance is determined by the number of shares you own, and the proprietary lease dictates that shareholders must pay their fair share, no pun intended.

"Moreover, if the board agreed to cut one shareholder's maintenance, it would mean all the others would be paying a larger share, thereby subsidizing the shareholder who is paying less," says Stuart Saft, a real estate lawyer at Holland & Knight.

That doesn't mean you're out of options.

When residents fall on hard times, "some boards will defer part of the obligation for a number months to allow you to get back on your feet" or to give you time to find a buyer, says real estate attorney Eric Goidel of Borah Goldstein Altschuler Nahins & Goidel.  

Approach the board before you fall too far behind or before the board starts legal action against you.

Your board might craft an individual payment plan for you to create some breathing room, says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, but eventually, you'll have to pay it all back.

As far as your mortgage payments, "generally it is only the squeaky wheel which gets the oil," says Goidel. While it might seem counterproductive, many lenders won't even start the conversation until you're in default--a circumstance with serious credit implications, so weigh the risk/wrewards carefully.

Also, notes Saft, while the bank may be willing to work out a different payment schedule, its flexbility may be limited if the bank is only servicing the loan.

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Do I have to tell the board that my boyfriend moved out?

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Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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