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Do You Know Your Rights As A Co-op Owner?

Posted by All Area Realty Services Team on Nov 20, 2018 4:57:31 PM

So you’ve worked hard and agreed to their rules, and now you’re a co-op owner.  There are a multitude of NYC laws and guidelines that protect you as a tenant. If you find yourself running into problems as a co-op owner it is important to learn your rights to discover what you can do to protect them. Here is everything you need to know. 

What determines your rights?

The rules at your co-op are derived by three types of legalities. In order, they are your proprietary lease, the by-laws of the building, and laws that protect you from illegal leases or by-laws. There are state laws, local laws, and even federal laws to protect you. Together these three legalities work together to balance each other out and create a fair living experience for you. 

Proprietary lease 

This is provided to you when you buy your co-op, and it informs you of the terms in which you will have to abide by in your building.  This will include:

  • Maintenance fees
  • Pet allowance
  • Other terms that are unique to each building 


The by-laws of the co-op outline the relationship between the board and unit owners such as yourself. The by-laws will include: 

  • Who can serve on the board
  • How members are elected
  • How owners can request information
  • The responsibilities and powers of the elected board

State, local, and federal laws

These laws are the final say in the co-op living laws. If a proprietary lease or by-law contradicts a state or federal law it is not legally binding. 


Common questions regarding co-op tenant rights

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions. Take some time to read them and see if your building is infringing on your tenant rights. 

Q: Am I responsible for all building and unit maintenance? 

A: You are responsible for the maintenance of the interior of your unit. This will include:

  • Walls 
  • Ceilings
  • Windows 
  • Floors
  • Frames
  • Painting and decorating
  • Repairing and replacing plumbing 
  • Gas and heat fixtures
  • Any appliances 

The building is responsible for any gas, steam, water, or other pipes within the interior of your unit. 

Q: Are there temperature regulations the building is required to abide by? 

A: There are no laws, unfortunately, that requires your co-op to install air conditioning or use an existing unit in communal areas. But the units are protected by the warranty of habitability, so shared areas should be heated when necessary. 

Q: Can a neighbor be evicted? 

A: Yes, it is possible for an owner to be evicted. If they are disruptive, unable to abide by the building’s rules, or are breaking federal laws. 

If you’d like to potentially have a shareholder evicted you will need:

  • A precedent that isn’t just a personal disagreement. 
  • Incidents backed with documentation such as staff logs, security footage, witnesses, etc. 
  • To fall back on the Business Judgement Rule which basically states that if an unruly shareholder claims the board has singled them out, their argument will be tossed out if the board has a clean slate. 

Q: Can I have pets?

A: This depends on your individual co-op's rules. Often even buildings that allow pets still have strict guidelines. Speak with your co-op board if your lease isn’t specific. 

Q: How can I protect my investment? 

A: When looking to buy a co-op it is important to look for one that you feel you will profit from when selling. However, there are situations that can take you off course.

For example, if your unit is a corner unit with plenty of windows or a top floor unit with amazing views your co-op has development rights. This means they can add on to the building, leading to annoying construction. 

If annoying or noisy construction is a problem of yours, you may be able to take legal action based on what's outlined in your proprietary lease. This does not guarantee that you will be able to prevent construction that could lower the value of your unit though. 

Q: Can my co-op board require renters insurance? 

A: Yes, they can, but this is a good thing. Without renters insurance, you’re putting yourself at risk for a financial disaster. Renters insurance covers your unit in case of a fire, theft, and other circumstances. 

Q: Can I have a roommate?

A: Yes, you can have a roommate as a co-op owner. Under the “Roommate Law”, you can have one additional occupant in addition to immediate family, but you have to be currently living in the unit at the same time. Also, You only have to give the board notice within 30 days of them moving. 

It should be noted that if you’re collecting rent from your roommate this could be considered subletting which isn’t usually allowed in co-ops. 

Q: Can I make renovations on my unit?

A: All renovation work no matter how small requires approval by a co-op board. Your co-op does have the right to refuse approval for renovations and even include a fee for the approved renovations. 

Buying a co-op does not mean you’re giving up all rights as a tenant. Although, legal guidelines can be confusing at times, stay diligent and learn all your rights. There is a right and legal answer out there for you, so don’t give up hope. The key is knowing your rights because that will ensure they are never infringed upon. 

All Area Realty Services knows what it takes to run buildings smoothly and efficiently while keeping both tenants and owners happy.  With over 30 years of experience, and many clients with us for decades, you can trust All Area Realty Services with taking care of your building and tenants. 

Topics: Co-Op Board, Property Management