One of the most important roles of cooperative/condominium boards is to carefully review proposed apartment alterations. Board approval of the intended renovation without a careful review of the proposal and plans can have critical consequences for a building.

Co-op proprietary leases generally provide that a board's consent to a renovation proposal cannot be "unreasonably" withheld or delayed. Courts have construed "reasonableness" in this context to mean that boards cannot be arbitrary or capricious in refusing or procrastinating on approval of shareholders' alteration requests; and their decisions must reflect what they perceive to be the association's best interests. Courts analyze both the board's decision and the process of arriving at that decision.

Most condo bylaws give boards the absolute right to reject unit owners' alteration requests, but impose strictly enforced deadlines for communicating the decision. For example, when one condo board failed to timely communicate its opposition to a unit owner's request to carve a new picture window in the building's masonry wall, the court held that the delay waived their right to object to the installation and allowed the alteration over the board's objection.

It is crucial for boards to coordinate with the managing agent and to establish a system for handling proposed renovations, including having an alteration application or agreement that the shareholder/unit owner must submit together with a description of the proposed renovation and architectural plans where necessary. An architect or engineer should review the alteration agreement and plans.....

Originally published May 6, 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.