Q: The apartment above our co-op has been vacant for years because a shareholder lived in a nursing home. The family was recently in the apartment and used the toilet, but the unit leaked water and damaged the bathroom. Our insurance covered the damage minus a deductible of $500. I won’t give it to you. This raises a worrying question about living under empty apartments. What about bugs, gas leaks, working smoke detectors? Can you force management to check apartments and share information about current unit owners?
A: You have the right to know who owns your upstairs apartment. For owner contact information, please contact the management agent. If they refuse, remind them: State law requires cooperatives to maintain a list of all shareholders and its mailing address, and to provide that information to other shareholders. (You may be required to sign an affidavit certifying that you will not use the information for telemarketing or other business purposes.)
“If you are using such contact information for a legitimate purpose, you are entitled to receive it,” said Ingrid C. Manevitz, real estate attorney and partner in the Manhattan office of law firm Seyfarth Shaw. said.
Please contact the apartment owner to get your $500 deductible back. Also, request that the owner and board assure you that the underlying issue that caused the leak has been resolved. Otherwise, it may recur the next time someone uses the restroom.
A vacant apartment is vulnerable to serious maintenance issues that can affect you and the building as a whole. Radiators can leak, cockroaches and rats can get in. Someone has to take responsibility.
Most co-ops have rules that give managers the right to enter apartments for inspection and repair of violations, as well as the right to deal with other problems and respond to emergencies. The board must exercise its powers. Request the owner to check the apartment regularly or have the supermarket check it for you. “Go to your manager and say, ‘Look, I already had one instance of this. I don’t want to do that again,'” Manevitz suggested.
What you are requesting is not only in your best interests, but also in the best interests of the building and apartment owners.
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