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Q. I rent an apartment in a co-op and have been there for over 10 years. Last month, my next door neighbor, a 91-year-old rent-controlled tenant, passed away. The landlord is the original co-op sponsor and I’ve learned that he intends to gut renovate the unit and sell it.
I have severe allergies to dust and am very concerned about the construction process which could take six months or more.
What can I do?
A. Typically when a shareholder intends to renovate an apartment in a co-op, the shareholder and the corporation enter into an "alteration agreement" that lays out the rules that will govern the construction work.
Such an agreement might cover what contractors are permitted to work in the building, what days and times workers are permitted in the building, plan approval requirements, restrictions on the type of work that can be done, who is responsible for certain costs, etc.
It’s also common for the shareholder to be required to post a large security deposit that is not refunded until the completion of the work.
The rules are different when it comes to sponsors, however.
A sponsor of a cooperative apartment building is the person or entity responsible for forming the corporation and organizing the co-op. They are responsible for drafting the co-op's governing documents, including the by-laws. As such, they often protect their personal interests by exempting themselves from many of the obligations that mere shareholders would be subject to, including alteration agreements.
That said, the law still regulates certain aspects of construction work.
For example, the New York City Noise Code regulates such things as the maximum decibels permitted for work and the hours contractors are allowed to work. If you have a complaint, you can call 311 to pursue it, though it’s not uncommon for complainants to find that the city’s response leaves something to be desired.
Alternatively, and perhaps more strategically, you can attempt to contact the sponsor directly and come to an amicable agreement noting that you would not want to become a nuisance by consistently filing complaints with the city. Keep in mind, though, that being a squeaky wheel may not be an advantage at lease renewal time.
Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.
Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.