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Ask an Expert: Can my co-op kick me out for leaving the gas on?

By Teri Karush Rogers | December 3, 2013 - 2:18PM

Q.  I inadvertently left my stove on for an extended period of time and gas leaked. It was not until my neighbors and the super came by that I was aroused and turned it off. Can my co-op kick me out of the building for this? What other legal ramifications might I face? 

A.  You can relax--at least for now, say our  experts.

"Assuming that this was a one-time incident, the answer is no, you can't be kicked out," says co-op and condo attorney Dean Roberts of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus. "In order to terminate a tenancy based on nuisance, the co-op must show that the nuisance behavior is not a one-time event and that there is a danger of repetition--there has to be a pattern of nuisance rather than a one-time incident.  However, if the gas leak is one of a number of problematic behaviors, those could be grounds for termination."

Poperty manager Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management agrees that "a single event without adverse consequences typically isn’t sufficient for a coop board to begin legal proceedings to terminate a proprietary lease."  It would take a pattern of behavior impacting the peaceful quiet, enjoyment and safety of the building and its inhabitants.

Other legal ramifications from this incident are unlikely if no actual damage was suffered, says Roberts.

"However, if damages had been incurred, then you would be responsible both to the cooperative as well your fellow shareholders for any damages they suffered," says Roberts.

In that case, the personal liability portion of your apartment insurance policy would cover the damages, says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage.

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