Q&A: Should a Shareholder Pay for a Long-Staying Guest?

Q. Can a co-op charge the shareholder a fee if they have guests for long periods of time? Can we ask for photo IDs?

                                    —Reluctant Host

A. “A ‘long period of time’ may be shorter than you think,” says attorney Marijana Predovan of the Manhattan firm Armstrong Teasdale. “Most proprietary leases provide that shareholders may have guests stay with them for up to one month, unless the shareholder obtains written consent from the board of directors authorizing the guest to remain longer. Boards should keep in mind that the guest cannot stay alone in the shareholder’s apartment. Typically, a proprietary lease (‘Lease’) will provide that the guest may not occupy the apartment unless the shareholder or one of the permitted adult residents is also in occupancy; i.e., the permitted resident and guest must stay in the apartment at the same time. In some cases, the Lease will identify the permitted residents—typically the shareholder’s spouse and children, sometimes others such as grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters. 

“The ability to charge a fee to a shareholder if their guests remain over a month without the board’s authorization depends on whether the Lease empowers the board to impose fines. If the Lease contains language authorizing the board to fine shareholders, the board can pass a House Rule that establishes a schedule of fines for violations. The board might decide that the first violation will result in a warning from management and that subsequent violations will result in fines. Repeat violations can result in higher fines, which will accumulate until the unauthorized guest vacates the apartment. If the Lease does not authorize the board to impose fines, the only way to do so would be to amend the proprietary lease, which usually requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds or three-quarters of the shareholders at a special meeting.

“Requiring identification for guests is a different story. The board has the authority to pass a House Rule requiring that shareholders announce their guests in advance and the doorman can ask for the visitor’s identification in order to confirm each guest’s identity.

“If a board receives a complaint about a shareholder’s guests, we recommend that the board ask the doorman and/or superintendent to be on the lookout for visitors to the shareholder’s apartment. There could be an unauthorized sublet at the apartment or an illegal short-term rental through Airbnb or similar websites. Boards should contact their legal counsel to determine their recourse in the event of illegal sublets.”

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