Q&A: Windows Need Replacement

Portrait of mature men wearing uniform standing indoors and installing new windows in the apartment. Horizontal shot

Q. I live in a co-op in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The windows in the entire co-op are in bad need of replacement. We live right off the river and it can be extremely windy and cold. I inquired with management if window replacement might be on their list of upcoming projects, as many projects are being done. Other owners have also complained about their windows. 

Management pursued talks with a private window company and connected them with owners who were interested in replacement. The individual owners would sign contracts and bear the costs of their replacement.

When I previously spoke with management about whose responsibility it would be to replace the windows, management’s reply to me was that it is in my proprietary lease—but in reading the lease, it appears to be management’s responsibility. When I approached management with this information, their reply was to me, “I never told you it was not our responsibility; these are owners who want their windows replaced now.”

I attended a meeting between those owners who were interested in replacement and the window company. Management was there and verbalized that they would consider doing this window replacement piecemeal every year.

Is this appropriate per the proprietary lease, and do the owners have a recourse?

                                          —Draft Dodger

A. “As the questioner notes, responsibility for repairs is usually contained in the building’s proprietary lease,” says Mark Axinn, chair of the Cooperative and Condominium Practice Group for New York law firm Phillips Nizer. “Most proprietary leases specify that the lessor-apartment corporation is responsible for window repairs, although sashes and frames may be the responsibility of the shareholder-lessee.

“In this case, the management company for the co-op acknowledged its obligation, but is not addressing it in a timely manner. The questioner should write to the corporation putting it on formal notice that the windows in his unit are defective and need replacing before this winter, as the weather conditions along the Hudson affect the habitability of the apartment.

“Additionally, as the property manager is an agent for the board of directors, the questioner may want to raise the issue with a board member directly if the property manager continues to be obstreperous. This can be done informally in person or by email, or formally by a petition signed by at least 25% of the shareholders requesting a special meeting to discuss the issue and to direct the agent to perform the window replacements promptly.”

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  • There is no mention of the 'Board's' knowledge or involvement in the matter. This may not be the 'management agent' being 'obstreperous' - just following orders and being the shadow that the cooperative board hides behind. Since when are 'windows' the shareholders responsibility? Is a building complete without a structural component - the windows -? Can you buy an apartment without windows? Is the cooperative going to dictate what type/style of windows a shareholder can install?
  • One way or another, shareholders will pay for this regardless of whose responsibility the Proprietary Lease says it is. Either through an assessment, or by diminishing the reserve fund so that an assessment would be needed for other work in the future. No free lunch for shareholders. You don’t live in a rent stabilized apartment; you are a homeowner who owns not only your apartment, but your proportionate share of the entire building infrastructure.