Q: I rent in a co-op, and over the past few years, owners have started to outnumber renters in the building. A bike rack was recently installed in the garage, and we were told that owners will get first priority, with any remaining space offered up to renters. I contacted the management that represents the renters, and was told we have to defer to the protocols of the owners' management. Is it now legal for the owners' management company to deny renters use of the bike rack?
While your building's management structure sounds questionable, they are within their rights to give owners first crack at the bike rack before renters, say our experts.
"As a rule, you have to have uniformity of service, and the same management company," says Dean Roberts, a real estate attorney specializing in co-op and condo law at Norris McLaughlin & Marcus. "But even if it is the kind of two-tiered system you describe, the bottom line is that management can favor owners over tenants."
Buildings typically want to incentive residents to become shareholders and buy their apartments instead of just renting, Roberts notes, which could be part of the motivation here. While rent-stabilized tenants can be entitled to rent abatements if amenities they once had access to are taken away—and landlords can't give this kind of preference with essential services, like elevators—you don't have any such entitlement to brand new elements being added to the building, like the bike rack.
"If buildings can get away with having a 'poor door,' I can’t imagine bike racks will be a problem," notes Roberts. Unfortunately, while it might seem unfair, if your shareholder neighbors jump at the opportunity for in-building bike storage and snap up all the spots, you might find yourself having to lug your fixie into your apartment after every ride.
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