Case Notes

Case Notes provides insight on one particularly relevant co-op or condo case—clearly explaining what happened, why it’s important, and what lessons can be learned within.

285 results
First published: Nov 2022
Fix My Condo!

Newly constructed condominiums often have construction defects, and it is not uncommon for newly constituted condominium boards to sue their sponsor for contract and non-contract claims (such as fraud and fiduciary duty claims). It is equally common for the sponsor to move to dismiss those claims. In particular, sponsors and their representatives are often successful in dismissing fraud claims on the theory that those claims are really just duplicative of contract claims, but phrased in more “intimidating” language. The plaintiffs in this case were able to survive the motion to dismiss because they described specific building defects that the sponsor and its representatives were actually aware of and actively concealed or failed to address.

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First published: Oct 2022
You say toMAHto. I say toMAYto. The bylaws say….

Voter participation matters. When it comes to board elections, an informal practice, no matter how long-standing, or widely accepted, is not controlling authority. At the end of the day, the express language of the governing documents will determine permissible board election procedure. In this case, the common interest among residential unit owners was over 70% and the sponsor’s interest was less than 30%. However, due to the residents’ reliance on past, informal voting procedures, and a lack of participation by all residential unit owners in the formal election, the sponsor’s votes, while not controlling, ultimately became determinative.

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First published: Oct 2022
When A Receiver Does the Board’s Job

Boards must accumulate sufficient reserves to finance anticipated and unanticipated repairs to common elements, especially when individual unit owners are suffering ongoing damages. Remember, unit owners do not have the right to repair common elements on their own. Here, the court properly took the matter out of the board’s hands, but the methods employed by the receiver may be less efficient or economical than if the board had acted on its own. On top of this, the board will have to pay the receiver fees and costs associated with the job. Unit owners will not appreciate a board that ignores legitimate complaints from residents, incurs significant legal fees, needs to reimburse fees from affected unit owners, and, on top of everything, pay receiver commissions as well.

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First published: Oct 2022
Brightwater Towers Condominium v. Vitebsky, Zilberman and Sosina

So what can a board do to prevent a handful of dissidents from spreading nasty and often anonymous statements insinuating that it is acting improperly? Communication is the key, since the number one complaint of dissidents is that the board is not communicating with shareholders or unit-owners. Quarterly newsletters are one way to keep residents abreast of the operations of the building and the decisions of the board. But the best way may actually have been provided by the pandemic — virtual meetings. The sniping by a few owners most likely have very little effect if all residents hear directly from the board, and often.

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First published: Sep 2022
I Am Who I Say I Am

This is one of the first cases, if not the first, interpreting the language now codified in the recently enacted NPCL and BCL amendments allowing for board elections to have electronic voting, including voting by email and other electronic means. If this case is any indication of future decisions (and it is my bet that it is), courts will uphold board discretion as to the implementation of safeguards in electronic voting. Boards will likely have broad discretion in enacting safeguards in electronic voting. While boards should enact safeguards, they should be mindful of ensuring that the burdens do not prohibit voting by certain segments of shareholders.

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First published: Sep 2022
Endless Renovations

If the duration of an alteration project is of concern to a board of a cooperative or condominium, care should be taken to ensure that all material information, including the specific deadline and consequences for failure to meet it, are clearly spelled out in the agreement. Even a seemingly minor mistake or unintentional oversight can have major consequences and a potentially significant impact on building operations.

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First published: Sep 2022
Lifesavers Bldg. Homeowners Group v. Bd. of Mgrs. of the Landmark Condo

TAKEAWAY This is one of the first cases, if not the first, interpreting the language now codified in the recently enacted NPCL and BCL amendments allowing for board elections to have electronic voting, including voting by email and other electronic means. If this case is any indication of future decisions (and it is my bet that it is), courts will uphold board discretion as to the implementation of safeguards in electronic voting. Boards will likely have broad discretion in enacting safeguards in electronic voting. While boards should enact safeguards, they should be mindful of ensuring that the burdens do not prohibit voting by certain segments of shareholders.

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First published: Sep 2022
Brodie v. Board Of Managers Of The Aldyn Condominium

Takeaway If the duration of an alteration project is of concern to a board of a cooperative or condominium, care should be taken to ensure that all material information, including the specific deadline and consequences for failure to meet it, are clearly spelled out in the agreement. Even a seemingly minor mistake or unintentional oversight can have major consequences and a potentially significant impact on building operations.

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First published: Aug 2022
Brooklyn Board Brouhaha

For shareholders who are disgruntled with the current board and want a new election, there are mechanisms for doing so. But if it’s not according to your co-op’s bylaws or New York’s Business Corporation Law, be warned. A court of law will not recognize the election, you will have spent an enormous amount of time (and potentially legal fees), and the old board will remain in place.

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First published: Aug 2022
Slow Death of a Sweetheart Lease

This case is a cautionary tale. Individuals who serve as members of a cooperative board owe a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the corporation. The record in this case shows that the defendant, Siwana Green, together with at least one relative who also served on the board until they were voted out in 2018, succeeded at enriching themselves while failing to ensure that the co-op paid the City of New York more than $1 million for real estate taxes and water charges, resulting in a foreclosure proceeding and leaving the building in dire financial straits.

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