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February 6, 2023

Nobody enjoys it when a neighbor’s continuous remodeling project lasts for months on end, especially when the renovations may cause damage to your own home. The alteration agreement, fortunately, is a mechanism that most buildings have in place to address issues for Co-Ops.

Beginning the Process

When shareholders consider a large-scale renovation, they should be prepared to meet with board members and building managers to discuss both the conditions of the renovation and the designs themselves.

Following the presentation of plans to a board, a contract known as an adjustment agreement is often executed between the management firm and/or the board and the shareholder.

Alteration agreements are contracts between the shareholder and the building in which the shareholder promises to do everything in accordance with the law and code, and that the building will not be damaged by the renovation.

Without consent, the shareholder cannot begin work.

The Contract Itself

Because changes are typical in co-ops and condominiums, many buildings already have a basic modification agreement in place.

Typically, the board will have a general modification agreement established by their attorney that includes a start and finish date for projects and hours. People don’t care how long it takes to renovate a house, but it’s not fair to the neighbors if the renovation takes six months in one apartment.
However, because most adjustments are not identical, the board of directors or management business and the shareholder might cooperate within the limitations of the alteration agreement to incorporate small elements relevant to the refurbishment.

There is no legal obligation for a building and a resident who wants to conduct a large-scale remodeling to enter into an alteration agreement.

Some structures lack a formalized alteration agreement.

Following The Rules

Once a time restriction is established by a modification agreement, it is anticipated that the project adheres to the timetable as closely as feasible. If a project is taking longer than projected, shareholders can request that the agreement be extended.

Residents can request extensions, and the board can consider them, but the board is not compelled to say ‘yes’. The board’s difficulty with providing an extension is that they’re establishing policy and precedent that every future extension in similar circumstances must be granted—they must be cautious about awarding extensions.

The installation of a bathroom or kitchen over a living room or other non-plumbing-related area is a typical reason that boards reject co-op and condo changes. This style of the building increases the likelihood of water damage to nearby apartments.

Condo leases provide boards significantly more discretion since boards can reject a change proposal for no reason. Boards, on the other hand, must make decisions rapidly. Most bylaws provide that if the board does not act on a project within 30 days of its filing, shareholders may presume that it has been authorized.

Other Things to Think About

Some boards ask the modification shareholder to pay a deposit ahead of construction to account for any harm that may occur during the renovation. This is to guarantee that no damage happens to neighboring units. The deposit can also act as a reminder of the project’s time restriction. If the shareholder violates the conditions of the amendment agreement, the project can be scrapped.

A security deposit should be imposed by the building in order to swiftly rectify any harm done. Alterations and projects have a habit of taking on a life of their own and lingering indefinitely, and nothing irritates a neighbor more than being exposed to a building site for more than a few months.

You must be realistic about the time frame. It is critical for neighbors to document the state of their apartments prior to neighbors construction. Neighbor damage is something that a lot of people have to deal with. A pre-construction survey is critical; some buildings fail to follow through on the modification agreement

The shareholder should check the progress of the project directly, rather than depending on the building’s inspectors.

The building managers are not your construction managers. They’re just trying to defend the interests of the building, not yours.

There are several kinds of renovations. Some of which require an alteration agreement and others which do not. Alteration agreements are typically necessary for larger-scale modifications that may affect the building’s structure.

Alterations that impact the structural integrity of the building or necessitate New York City permits, licensing, electrical, plumbing, or when shifting walls require modification agreement approval.

Boards can reject larger plans for a variety of reasons.

If the proposal is not clear and complete, compromises the building, or affects common areas of the building, they have the option to reject it. Smaller-scale repairs that do not impact the construction of the building don’t require alteration agreement approval.

Painting, carpeting, and light fixtures are examples of something that often won’t need co-op or condo approval.

When in doubt, owners should file an adjustment agreement to avoid fines, penalties, or having to repeat the work.