Formalize the Following Co-op Rules and Regulations

High-rise living has more appeal now than ever! The wealth of amenities, unique culture, and concierge-level services draw a greater number and variety of people to vertical living each year. Of course, there are challenges. The density and close quarters of a condo or coop mean that residents need to be respectful of each other and sometimes that can lead to conflict and friction. Having solid policies – and fair enforcement of them – is essential to keeping the community running smoothly.

Many boards feel that setting and enforcing policy makes them the “bad guy,” but that is nothing more than a myth. Formal policy is a tool to ensure consistency and equality – a way to make sure that everyone is following the same rules and subject to the same consequences if rules are disregarded. . Rather than being a hindrance, written policies help create harmony through equity. The challenge is getting there and maintaining this way of life.

Many of the major issues residents face are complex. A great property management company can assist with crafting policies to deal with that complexity through resources such as an in-house general counsel or and their experience working with many other communities. It will also have the means to enforce policies fairly once they have been formalized. Before beginning to formalize policies, consult your property management company and/or legal counsel, and check your governing documents – such as by laws or proprietary leases – to make sure you follow any outlined procedures.

Let’s take a look at some of the areas where concrete policies can help promote harmony and create order within a high-rise building.
  1. Pet etiquette

    There’s a pet for every kind of person, but not every pet is viable for condo or coop living. It’s a good idea to draft policies that define what kinds of pets are acceptable, including animal types, size and weight. It’s also important to make your clean-up policies clear.

    The key here is communication – make sure that all residents know the rules so they can comply. Have an easy means for people to report problems with pets. Remember that there will be exceptions, too – grandfathering in non-compliant pets after a new policy shift is part of a common-sense approach. But keep in mind that federal law requires that all service animals be accommodated, at no cost to the owner. For a full discussion, read our pet policy article.
  2. Smoking

    Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. But increased fire risks create even more immediate danger for residents living in a high-rise building. That risk is just one reason that so many buildings are going smoke-free...a step you may want to consider if you haven’t already done so.

    But how do you get there without lighting a fire under angry residents? Take it step-by-step:
    • Form a committee to explore the issue.
    • Include homeowners and board members, as well as public health workers and medical professionals, if possible.
    • Seek feedback from your residents.
    • You’ll want to ask them if they’ve experienced second-hand smoke, if they are smokers themselves and how they feel about a smoke-free or limited smoking environment.
    • When practical, consider designated smoking areas, rather than banning smoking entirely.

    It’s important to consult your property management company – if you’ve partnered with one – as well as your building attorney on this topic as your property’s governing documents may dictate specific protocols to be followed when implementing new building policies. Lastly – you guessed it – communicate the policy to your residents clearly. You can get more tips on how to implement policies of this nature here.
  3. Flooring

    Most problems with a neighbor probably boil down to a single word: noise. And while you can address this issue with ordinances regarding quiet hours and music/television volumes, real problems arise when the trouble is the flooring itself.

    Some flooring materials make every step sound like a thunderclap, which can make life unbearable for people living downstairs. Draft a policy that clearly outlines what types of flooring are acceptable and which types are not.

    Lean on the expertise of architects and acousticians who can go beyond defining acceptable flooring types. These experts offer real knowledge about how the floor should be constructed to minimize sound. Additionally, your new policy should include details about the construction approval process and who can complete the work – most associations require unit modifications to be performed by a licensed and insured contractor. Your governing documents will have more specific information.

    Clearly communicate the new rules to your residents and you’re on your way to having a flooring policy that keeps the building quiet – and fellow neighbors happy. For a deeper dive into how to implement a comprehensive flooring policy, check out this article.
  4. Noise

    No one likes noisy neighbors. Noise policies are a fairly easy thing to set and communicate to the community. Are there times between which a certain level of noise or certain activities should be limited? Consider points of contention like loud music, which is definitely in the ear of the beholder, and how a policy around it can be defined, balancing the rights of all involved.

    If your city has established a local noise ordinance, that may help you craft a policy for your building and will also give it more weight. If appropriate, bring in an acoustical expert to analyze the situation in your building and see if there are upgrades that can, for example, limit the noise that filters into units from the hallways and vice versa.
  5. Short-Term Rentals

    The sharing economy is booming. But allowing owners and renters to sublet their spaces in the short-term might not be a good fit for your community.

    Short-term renters are not subject to the vetting that long-term residents of the community undergo. They may not know the fire safety codes and other rules that keep everyone safe, and that can be dangerous in an emergency.

    If your building chooses to ban or limit short-term rentals, don’t be afraid to enforce compliance with penalties. Likewise, create procedures that prevent unauthorized people from entering the premises, and document those instances when they occur. Make sure the owners know that they are responsible for policy violations by their short-term tenants if you decide to allow short-term rentals. As with all policies, open communication with residents is the key to successful implementation.
No doubt about it, these can be tough issues to tackle. That said, it’s important for everyone that the board take the time to concretely define what is acceptable in the community and how those policies will be enforced. A professional property management company can help you find clarity in crafting your policies and achieve the kind of harmony that defines a great high-rise community.

For additional help defining and implementing policy for your high-rise building, contact FirstService Residential, New York’s condo and coop association management leader.
Tuesday January 31, 2017