Rules around renovating a Co-op Apartment in New York City
Thinking about buying and renovating a co-op apartment in NYC? If so, it’s important to know that all co-op and condo buildings in NYC have renovation rules which you must follow as a unit owner. A co-op building’s rules for renovations are usually listed in the building’s alteration agreement. The main purpose of co-op renovation rules in NYC is three fold: 1) to make sure that your proposed renovations won’t harm the building, 2) to ensure that you and your contractors have adequate insurance, and 3) to ensure that the construction is orderly and considerate of fellow residents.
The construction industry in NYC is highly litigious, and it’s quite common for contractors to sue clients, subcontractors/employees to sue contractors and apartment owners/buildings, and everything in between. Therefore, all co-ops will usually require all of your contractors to maintain and provide proof of at least $1,000,000 of insurance.
Contractors are almost always required to possess comprehensive personal liability insurance, property damage insurance, workers’ compensation and employee liability insurance policies.
Under the terms of the alteration agreement, each contractor is usually required to submit a Certificate of Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation naming the co-op, managing agent, unit owner (yourself) and the board of managers as “additional insured” on the certificate.
Here is an example of the insurance provision from an alteration agreement for a co-op in lower Manhattan:
I agree, before any work is begun:
(1) To procure from my contractor, or contractors:
(a) Comprehensive personal liability and property damage insurance policies, each in the amount of $1,000,000, which policies name you, your architect, your engineers and your Managing Agent, as well as myself, as parties insured. Such policies shall provide that they may not be terminated except on at least ten (10) days prior written notice to you; and
(b) Worker’s compensation and employees liability insurance policies, covering all employees of the contractor, contractors or subcontractors.
All such policies or certificates evidencing their insurance shall be delivered to you.
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Scope of Work
Co-op renovation rules are also designed to prevent apartment owners from making renovations which may harm the structure or mechanicals of the building itself. As such, the co-op will typically require to pay for the building’s architect and engineer to review the plans of your proposed renovations.
It’s also common for co-ops and most older condo buildings to prohibit apartment owners from increasing the amount of electrical capacity in an apartment. Here is an example of this language:
Before any alterations shall be started:
(i) I shall furnish you with a letter from a licensed engineer or architect, which letter shall certify that the electrical loads required as a result of the work (a) will not be in excess of the present electrical capacity of the Apartment, and (b) will not adversely affect the Building’s electrical service.
Finally, it’s also common for co-ops to require an inspection of your alterations before work is completed. For example, when replacing/repairing bathroom and kitchen plumbing, the building may require the super to inspect the pipes before you’re allowed to close the walls.
Some co-ops have blanket prohibitions on specific types of alterations, such as installing a washer / dryer or adding another bathroom. The latter is considered an expansion of the existing ‘wet area’ of an apartment, which refer to the kitchen and bathrooms (areas with plumbing). Washer / dryer restrictions may also be mentioned in a co-op’s house rules.
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Co-op renovation rules always establish a framework for construction hours, holidays as well as the maximum number of weeks any construction, alteration or renovation work may last. A typical co-op building in NYC usually only permits construction between 9am to 5pm, which is stricter than NYC’s construction hours (7am to 6pm).
Furthermore, most co-ops will further restrict you from making any unusually loud noises until 10am each morning. Most co-ops also prohibit any construction work on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
In rare cases, a co-op (or condo) may permit non-noise making work on the weekends such as plastering and painting.
Many co-ops also prohibit the use of jackhammers or any unusually loud tools such as electrical hammers, electric saws or other electrical power tools at all times unless prior approval is given by the building.
In addition, all co-op alteration agreements will require you to provide a minimum amount of notice to the building and your immediate neighbors in advance of commencing any alteration work.
Co-ops may also restrict the total length of time you’re allowed to renovate. A common maximum is 4 months. This is designed to prevent apartment owners from constantly changing their plans and creating semi-permanent construction. Co-ops with elevator capacity issues may also cap the number of apartments which are permitted to be renovated at the same time.
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Fees and Liability
Renovating your co-op is another great opportunity for the co-op and its managing agent to charge you fees. Most co-ops will charge you a non-refundable alteration agreement processing fee, in the same way they charge you a fee when submitting your purchase application.
In addition, many co-ops will require you to make a deposit in advance of beginning your renovations. The deposit is returned provided that your alterations do not cause any damage to the common areas of the building.
Another purpose of the alteration agreement is to allow the co-op to make you assume absolute liability for any monetary or other damages which are caused by your renovation work. You’ll typically be required to sign the alteration agreement and submit this along with the fee(s), proof of insurance, contractor quotes and architectural/engineering plans.
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