The legal power of co-op boards

I follow a blog written by Malcolm Carter, a real estate broker, who reports on news regarding New York City real estate. Which is, as anybody knows, one of the major topics of conversation, controversy and a lot of other “c” words, among us New Yorkers.

Today he reported on one particular co-op board which has blocked an owner-shareholder from selling his apartment. (If you don’t get this particular article via the link, the article is called “Some co-ops won’t let residents move out,” is dated September 6, 2012, and you can find it in the archives.)

And that interests me because of my lawsuit against the Skush-O’Briens individually, and as the sole members of the co-op board for my building.

Generally, judges are reluctant to overturn co-op board rules, because boards are, in effect, mini-legislatures and judges; that is, their rules are nearly absolute. Very princely. The “nearly” modifier, though, is pretty simple: a board and all board members must act in compliance with the laws of the state, the city and of the rules inscribed in the Proprietary Lease for the co-op. So they may feel princely, but they really can’t behave as absolute monarchs, outside the law.

It’s sort of similar to state laws, which can do all sorts of things but can’t ignore or defy the U.S. Constitution. (We’ve seen a lot of civil rights lawsuits lately against Republican-controlled states that are attempting to suppress voting in districts that vote Democratic. One of those states, Ohio, is the home state of the Skush-O’Briens.)

And this is important to me because the Skush-O’Briens have demonstrably breached an amazing number of State, City and Prop. Lease laws, regulations and rules. In fact, when I have attempted to describe to friends what the Skush-O’Briens have actually done that brought me to sue, I usually laugh and say, “It isn’t so much what laws they’ve breached. It’s more what laws they haven’t breached. We can’t come up with a single one.”

But since it’s unlikely you’re in the eye of the kind of perfect storm the Skush-O’Briens engendered (and will drown in), read Malcolm Carter’s piece on what your co-op board can legally do if you want to sell out.

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