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Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
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Building & Neighborhood Issues

Published: Summer 2002

PROPRIETARY LEASE
CNYC's recently-developed model Shareholders Agreement and Proprietary Lease is being used by many cooperatives as a basis for updating their own corporate documents. CNYC president Marc J. Luxemburg, Esq. will present a seminar on Wednesday, September 25th, detailing the history of the CNYC lease, presenting a new updated version which includes suggestions received since the last update, and answering questions from participants. See page 16 for registration information. Every CNYC member and subscriber is welcome to a copy of the CNYC lease at no cost. Non-affiliates can request copies at a fee of $175. The lease can also be purchased on computer disk for $10.

DOT COOP
Last year the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) ran a successful campaign for a .coop internet suffix. Now NCBA has exclusive jurisdiction over this designation; only genuine cooperatives can receive a dot coop domain name. CNYC will be pleased to assist any of its members in obtaining a .coop site. The cost is $160 for two years. For further information, see the NCBA website at www.cooperative.coop.

RECYCLING RESTRICTED
Mayor Bloomberg has insisted on curtailing the recycling program during the current budget crunch. Despite the efforts of the City Council to preserve the full program, the City's curbside recycling program is now collecting only paper and metals. Now all plastic, glass and juice cartons are to be included with regular household garbage. These suspensions are scheduled to be reversed over the next two years.

Paper products will continue to be recycled. These include newspapers, magazines, catalogs, telephone books, mixed paper, mail, envelopes, smooth cardboard (shoe boxes, cereal boxes, tubes), paper bags, soft covered books, and corrugated cardboard. All cardboard cartons must be flattened and tied in bundles.

Metal recyclables include cans, aluminum foil wraps and trays, household metal objects (such as wire hangers, pots and pans, and irons), metal pipes and other items made substantially of metal.

SUPERINTENDENTS CLUB OF NEW YORK
CNYC members are invited to enroll their staff members at discount rates in the Superintendents Club of New York, a technical society of multifamily building maintenance personnel that keeps its members up to date with the latest technical developments and provides training opportunities. Founded at the Apartment House Institute of New York City Technical College, the Supers Club is a NY State non-profit corporation, enjoying a significant working relationship with the federal Department of Energy, as well as links to NY State funding for building improvements.

NOTE: The Following information has been update, as of July 2008:

CNYC has supported the Club since its inception, as have many managers and others. But the principal members are maintenance persons. The Supers' Club offers CNYC members a $5 discount on each membership:

  • Superintendents/Directors of Maintenance: $60.00
  • Handypersons, Porters, Doormen and Concierges: $30.00

Please visit their site at www.nycsta.org for the membership application. Their meetings are currently being held at the Seafarers & International House, 123 E. 15th St. in Manhattan.

CHECK CONTRACTOR LICENSE TO AVOID HEADACHES
CNYC thanks the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) for the following guest article.

DCA receives more complaints against home improvement contractors than any other category. Period. End of subject. In some cases the contractor disappears, leaving the apartment in disarray, walls torn apart, the wiring and plumbing exposed, and other work undone. The damage to an owner's apartment, or neighboring units, can be in the hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And then, making matters worse, if the homeowner used an unlicensed contractor, when that homeowner files a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs, he will discover that the Department's considerable powers are lessened because that contractor was illegal. Many of these headaches can be avoided if cooperative boards mandate that only licensed contractors can be hired for improvements and renovations. If a contractor is properly licensed, and the complaint legitimate, DCA will go to bat for the consumer, reminding the contractor of his obligations under the law and achieving a settlement for the consumer. If mediation is unsuccessful, or if the contractor is unresponsive, DCA will send the case to an Administrative Law Judge. DCA might then have the power to suspend or revoke the contractor's license if he refuses to pay. In the rare instances when a licensed contractor goes out of business or skips town leaving behind a string of damages and outstanding consumer restitution, DCA will reimburse the consumer from our HIC Trust Fund that pays consumers 100% of the damages up to $15,000.

DCA can and does take complaints against unlicensed contractors, but its enforcement powers are reduced. Often unlicensed contractors fail to respond to mediation or show up for hearings. Even if unlicensed contractors appear for a hearing, they often fail to pay damages. And the HIC Trust Fund (established with fees from licensed contractors) can only be used to pay for damages caused by licensed contractors. The only recourse left to the Department and the consumer is to go to court unless DCA inspectors are lucky enough to catch the contractor working at another location, in which case the inspectors can seize the contractor's vehicle and tools.

Homeowners, building managers, and cooperative and condominium boards can protect themselves. The simplest defense begins with a phone call to the DCA Hotline at (212) 487-4444 to check the license status and complaint history of a prospective contractor. Ultimately, cooperative boards are left to deal with many of the headaches caused by unlicensed contractors and are shocked to discover that they are legally liable if they had referred the vendor to the shareholder. Cooperative boards should mandate that shareholders only use licensed contractors for all home improvement work.
Also keep in mind that even high-end craftsmen must be licensed. A craftsman's reputation is no protection against potential damage or conflict about responsibility for future problems. This one simple mandate would go a long way in combating potential headaches.

Other steps that boards should take when approving improvements include:

  • Establish a well-defined policy toward construction work done in an individual unit including a need for Board approval board before any home improvements are made.
  • Have the shareholder provide a copy of the written estimate/contract with the vendor. The contract must include the vendor's full name, address, DCA license number, cancellation clause, a clause stating that the vendor will secure any necessary permits, and a Workers’ Compensation clause. Target completion dates should be included and the listing of work related items should be clear and as detailed as possible.
  • Check the vendor's license and complaint status by calling the Consumer Affairs Hotline at (212) 487-4444.
  • Do not take the word of the vendor when it comes to his or her license status. Vendors are required to have their license number on all printed material, including business cards. The statement “licensed and insured” on forms is no guarantee that the vendor is telling the truth. Even if the vendor is based outside the five boroughs, a license must be secured if work is being done within the five boroughs.
  • Make certain that the vendor has secured all necessary permits. DCA is working with the Department of Buildings and the Landmarks Commission to stop giving permits to work done with unlicensed contractors.
  • Advise shareholders that they should report all problems to the contractor in writing (Certified Mail preferred) with photocopies given to the board. Advise shareholders to file written complaints with DCA, if problems are unresolved. Both shareholders and board members should remember to document any problems and keep detailed minutes of any discussions held at board meetings about the contractor problems.
  • Make certain that management looks at the completed work before the shareholder makes the final payment to the vendor.
  • Keep in mind that the DCA can only mediate complaints between consumers and vendors.

DCA has stepped up enforcement against unlicensed contractors. Additionally, DCA has expanded its outreach to contractors so that they understand the obligations and benefits of being properly licensed. Consumer Affairs is making every effort to prevent unlicensed contractors from working within the five boroughs, and if cooperative boards work with us, we'll all save time and money and lots of frustration.

 
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