Q&A: Guidelines Are Just Guidelines

Q. Our co-op board claims that they are adhering to government guidelines by barring all visitors, housekeepers, repairmen, etc. from entering the building. However, these are just guidelines and it is up to the board to decide what rules to implement. We have had no communication or updates since March 12. Please clarify who sets the rules, thanks.

  —Seeking Clarity

A. According to Martin Kera of New York City real estate law firm Kera & Graubard, “The board of directors sets the rules. The NYC Department of Health has issued guidelines that are not mandatory and are subject to frequent change. These guidelines are minimum standards. In addition, the City of New York has issued some mandatory rules for which the building can be fined if in breach. One of those mandatory rules is to post signs limiting the occupancy of elevators in the [cabs] and on each floor. The rules apply only if there is an open construction permit in the building, but elevator consultants are recommending that all buildings post signs. Another [mandatory rule] until recently was [that] brokers could not show apartments for sale. 

“Your co-op board has a fiduciary duty to protect the health and safety of the residents. The board has the discretion, in the exercise of its sound business judgment (which governs co-op board decisions), to institute additional rules that they decide would be beneficial to the residents. The rules that you question are quite common throughout the city. Many co-ops bar people from moving out or moving in. Thus, you have a situation where someone purchases an apartment but cannot move into the apartment. New furniture cannot be delivered. Everyone must wear a mask in the common areas. As the city opens up, the co-op board can exercise its discretion in determining whether or when to relax these rules.”

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