NY Cooperator October 2020
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October 2020                                   COOPERATOR.COM  continued on page 13   discriminatory way, but when reviewing the totality of the circumstanc-  es surrounding the alleged violation, “The board does have leeway—  known as the Business Judgment Rule—in determining when and how   to enforce.”  In many cases, there is also a question of what rules and regulations   passed by the board may cover. In Massachusetts, explains Richard E.   Brooks, a partner at Braintree-based law firm Marcus Errico Emmer   continued on page 12   Social distancing, lockdowns, quar-  antine, remote work, distance learning—  these once unfamiliar terms have changed   the way we live our everyday lives in the   time of a global pandemic. In a society   where a  handshake is  the social  gesture   that confirms a positive feeling between   individuals, the imposed separation be-  tween us and our family, friends, neigh-  bors, and colleagues is a heavy burden   under which to operate.   Perhaps nowhere is this enforced dis-  tancing felt more acutely  than  in  multi-  family residential communities such as   co-ops, condos, and HOAs. Beyond just   isolating formerly tight-knit, engaged   neighbors, the need to keep our distance   and not gather in groups has made up-  holding the requirement for communi-  ties to convene at least once a year (and   sometimes more) to conduct the business   of the corporation or association a logisti-  cal nightmare.  Reality Meets Documents  While more recently drafted condo, co-  op, and HOA governing documents may   already contain language spelling out the   proper protocols for electronic meetings   and  voting,  those  established  before  vir-  tual meetings became a common factor in   business life are likely silent on the issue.   Ellen Shapiro, a partner in the Braintree,   Massachusetts-based law firm of Marcus   Errico Emmer & Brooks, says, “If it’s not   prohibited, it’s permitted. Given the ex-  traordinary situation we find ourselves in   today, a court would be inclined to favor   a board that wanted online meetings for   inclusivity, \\\[even if\\\] the documents were   written before anyone would have thought   It’s a common bit for comedians and TV sitcoms: making fun of the ‘condo police’—those   neighbors who take it upon themselves to enforce the rules set up by your condominium asso-  ciation or co-op corporation to regulate community living. They are sticklers for detail: Is your   mailbox at the right height? Do you have contraband plantings in your flowerbeds? Are your   window treatments approved in terms of both color and configuration?  Funny or not (and depending on how you feel about having to get approval to repaint your   shutters, it may not be), in reality, co-ops and condos have rules—lots of them—and for good   reason. Successful community living requires structure. Some regulations appear in your gov-  erning documents—the bylaws, usually—while others are found in less formal documents   outlining ‘house rules.’ In any event, the question is how these rules are enforced, and who does   the enforcing.  Defining Rules & Regulations  Mark Hakim is an attorney specializing in co-op and condominium law with the firm of   Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenburg & Atlas, based in New York City. “The house rules in a co-  op or condominium are rules and regulations promulgated by the board, and amended from   time to time,” he says. “They’re intended for the general welfare of the residents of the building.   They include—but are certainly not limited to—pets, sublets, smoking, use of the hallways and   common areas, carpeting, windows, plantings, noise, and other quality of life matters.   “In co-ops, a breach of the house rules is generally a breach of the proprietary lease, per-  mitting the board to treat it as such,” Hakim continues. “In a condominium, one would need   to review the bylaws to see what rights the board may have. In both, how each is drafted and   whether the lease and/or bylaws permit fines will determine what the board may do, short of   drastic measures.”  Hakim goes on to say that enforcement of any and all rules must be handled in a fair, non-  While residents of condos, co-ops, and   HOAs do their part to prevent the spread   of COVID-19 by staying in their homes   as much as they can, they rely on the su-  pers, porters, valets, doorpeople, janitorial   workers, handymen and -women, security   personnel, managerial staff, maintenance   workers, and others to leave   their   homes to   keep these multifamily communities safe,   clean, and operational.   But over these last six months, as the   world has been in the grips of the coro-  navirus  crisis, property service  workers   around the country have been dealing with   heavier and more intense workloads, ever-  shifting regulations, and supply-line short-  ages making it harder to carry out their   essential duties—all while dealing with the   same fear and uncertainty that this virus   and its outcomes have inflicted on all of us.   Meanwhile, boards and property man-  agers  have  been  adjusting  to  new gover-  nance procedures; incorporating the shift-  ing regulatory guidance from multiple   levels of government into their policies;   dealing with pressure from residents to   reopen amenities; and figuring out how   to incorporate personal protective equip-  ment (PPE), foggers, gallons of disinfec-  tant, and plexiglass partitions into bud-  gets that in many cases were already tight.   Given all of these challenges—and in light   of the tough, important work that they do   for the communities they serve—it is more   important than ever to ensure that prop-  erty staff continue to feel safe, secure, and   supported.  In the Beginning  At  the beginning  of the  coronavirus   crisis,   The Cooperator   spoke to Carolina   González, New York regional communi-  cations manager for 32BJ SEIU, the larg-  est property workers union in the country.   She explained that in New York, there were   early agreements with the Realty Advisory   Board (RAB) to extend sick pay for work-  ers,  incorporate  guidance  from  the  Cen-  ters for Disease Control and Prevention   (CDC) for employee protection, and allow   Living by the Rules  Making—and Enforcing—House Rules   BY A J SIDRANSKY  Supporting Essential   Building Workers  How to Show Your Staff   You Care  BY DARCEY GERSTEIN  Community   Meetings in the   Time of COVID  Distancing without Getting   Detached   BY A.J. SIDRANSKY  205 Lexington Avenue, NY, NY 10016 • CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED  continued on page 15 

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