Check Your Dream Against Reality, Then Check Again
As every co-op owner knows, in order to undertake a renovation, you need to sign an alteration agreement with your co-op board. Basically, the alteration agreement is a contract between you as the shareholder and the co-op which ensures that your renovation will not damage either your building or your neighbor’s apartments and which spells out the rules and regulations. While some of this is negotiable–and you will definitely need a sharp attorney for this stage–much of it is not. Another reason you will require a good attorney before you sign the agreement, is to check for hidden problems. Since you will need an Amended Certificate of Occupancy from the Building Department for instance, a good attorney will check to ascertain whether your building has any open issues with the Building Department which might considerably slow down your ability to get it.
Alterations can affect the building’s heating and plumbing systems, damage property in other units (which you will be responsible to repair and/or replace) and your co-op will want to protect themselves against this. Your co-op board will review your architect’s drawings and once the board approves your plan, your renovation plan will be “fixed” with no other alterations allowed. If you get tempted to make some last minute changes down the road, remember that the co-op board will be sending in an inspector once you’re done to ensure that the plan they originally approved has not been exceeded in any way. City buildings, and those engaged in renovations, also must comply with Local Law 58, which mandates that no renovation within an elevator building or above the first floor in a walk-up can interfere with access for the disabled. And Murphy’s Law being what it is, you know there are always going to be those moments when one of your contractors yells, “Uh oh!” having just discovered an unanticipated problem which will necessitate further negotiations with the co-op board before anything can go forward. If you reside in a pre-war or other older building, that could mean that you’re soon engaged in an unending game of “Forward, Halt, Forward, Halt.”