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Q&A: Litigious Neighbors

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Q. What should you do as an owner if you know of a small subset of owners in your condo that keep bringing coordinated and meritless legal actions, and even make public postings about your building that could harm your own valuation? Are there any actions you can take? 

                                 —Sick of the Suits

A. Dov Treiman, managing partner at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C., in Manhattan, says, “There is very little a condo unit owner can do to get relief from other unit owners who bring meritless legal actions and make improper public postings. The board of managers may possibly have the power under the governing documents of the condo to impose fines and even to foreclose on them or even to collect its attorneys fees for defending the meritless actions. However, unit owners do not have the power to force the board to do that. In some jurisdictions, there are procedures in the courts that allow for someone who is being hurt by meritless actions to ask the court to impose its own fines on the improper plaintiffs or even to require that before any further suits be filed, they first have to be checked for potential merit by a judge. This latter, while useful, is extremely rare. In extreme circumstances, an aggrieved unit owner can sue the troublemakers for reducing the value of the aggrieved unit owner’s unit. However, none of the procedures outlined in this answer would be wisely undertaken without the assistance of a very experienced lawyer.

“In New York, there are other procedures that are available for a co-op, but your question was about condos.”

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2 Comments

  • Can board members legally have access to security cameras on their phone apps.
  • The City Bar has a program labeled "Mediate, Don't Litigate." It sponsors a "Co-op and Condo Residents Dispute Resolution Project. Under it, boards can promote mediation sessions with the disputing neighbors before neutral mediators, knowledgable in the applicable law and fully trained in mediation techniques. They are dedicated to assist the parties in settling their disputes. It is helpful if the boards can incorporate this mediation process in their rules and regulations, and even more enforceable, in the bylaws. There are many private mediators and mediation organizations that can also provide such a service. The obvious benefits are that mediation is private, confidential, economical and avoids relegating all parties to long drawn out litigation which forces the dispute to continue their war during its pendency and often leads to a result that does not satisfy anyone.