Renovating Your Co-Op in NYC(Last Updated On: December 19, 2019)
A Condo or Co-Op Alteration Agreement is a contract between a Condo or Co-Op board and an apartment owner. The agreement outlines the building’s regulations and the responsibilities of all parties involved when renovating your co-op or condo. You will sign your alteration agreement before starting the renovation. The board will often have their own architect review the proposed work before issuing an approval to proceed.
Condo & Co-Op Apartment Renovations
In this post, we will be discussing Condo and Co-Op apartment renovations, specifically the typical NYC Condo or Co-Op alteration agreement. You will need to review and sign an alteration agreement with your building board when doing any type of apartment renovations from combining apartments, adding a room, removing a wall, or just cosmetic work.
Renovating Your Co-Op or Condo
Getting Board Approval For Co-Op Apartment Renovations.
The first thing you should do if you want to renovate your Co-Op is consult with an architect. We have another post if you want to read more abut NYC Residential Architects and their services. If you are in New York City, by law, you may need an architect depending on the extent of work in the renovation. We always review the scope of work with our clients before beginning the project, as an architect I let my clients know if they will need to file with Department of Buildings (DOB). You may file plans with the DOB to get approvals and permits. Apartment renovations are typically filed with the DOB as an Alteration Type 2 or Alt 2 application. You might need an asbestos test when you renovate. You can see another post we wrote explaining when you have to test for asbestos in NYC. The one thing you will always need for your apartment renovation is board approval before filing your apartment renovation with the DOB (when required).
Co-Op Alteration Agreements
First things first. Notify your Co-Op board and building management that you intend to work on your apartment. They will have paperwork and guidelines for apartment renovations in the building. You will need to review your Condo or Co-Op Alteration Agreement.
As the project architect we produce a set of drawings and documents for the project. You then submit the drawings to your Co-Op board and building management company for their review.
Read Your Condo Co-Op Alteration Agreement
Condos and Co-Ops have management companies that handle alteration reviews and alteration agreements. The company will want to review your plans for compliance with building rules and to make sure you are not planning anything that will affect the rest of the building. The management company will consult with their own architect or engineer. I will refer to them as the building architect. This building architect / engineer will review the plans. They will have issues, questions, objections and typically do not approve the job outright. They will send you a list of comments in regards to your project.
We review the building architect’s issues and respond with revised drawings if necessary and a letter. The letter will address point by point the previous comments and responses. This process can go on for several months, or be quick; it depends on the building and the particular co-op board/management company. The most important thing you need at this phase is patience. Keep in mind the building architect is an adviser and a consultant. Your Co-Op board has the final say on approving your application.
Working With the Co-op Board and the Building Architect
Working with a client once, a building’s architect would not approve of enlarging a bathroom space by taking space from an adjacent closet. My client then decided to attend the Co-Op board’s monthly meeting to ask them for approval personally, and they did approve it. If they say it is OK, it supersedes the building architect’s objections, provided that it does not violate any codes. These building architects can ask for a great deal of information and be rather restrictive in what they would recommend allowing. I once had a building architect ask me to do structural calculations for replacing a 5′ bathtub with a 6′ bathtub. I thought that was ridiculous but we did it.
If you find yourself struggling to settle an alteration agreement, go to your Co-op board directly. You may also run into situations where the Co-Op board has instructed the building architect to look for reasons to deny the application. Yes, that does happen too. In those cases, do everything you can to work within their rules. If you think you need a lawyer, find one with experience in these issues. Always be aware of building rules. As I mentioned in the previous example, many buildings have a rule stating that bathroom enlargements are not permitted, while other buildings do allow it. This is called “Wet Over Dry“.
Your board or management company will cosign the paperwork that your architect will submit to the Department Of Buildings. You will need to get their information to send to your architect before they can start the paperwork to be submitted to the DOB. If Asbestos testing is required this must also be done before E filing the paperwork with DOB.
NYC Co-Op Alteration Agreement when Renovating Your Co-Op
Always review your building’s alteration agreement before renovating your Co-Op or Condo. Apartment renovations are serious business. Make sure your entire team, architect and contractors, review this agreement. Your building can have all sorts of rules that will affect your project. Sometimes they impose financial penalties if the job exceeds a certain allotted time frame. Be careful about selecting a contractor you are confident can get it done on time.
You can find your building rules also make your job bigger. For example if you replace plumbing fixtures, they may require that you replace the shutoff valves and branch piping back to the riser with new copper pipes. This is common. Every building has different rules for apartment renovations, so you can never know exactly what to expect unless you read the Condo or Co-Op Alteration Agreement. We once worked in a building where the Alteration Agreement came with a 300 page book of building rules.
Condo and Co-Op Board Approvals
Once the Co-Op board or management company gives their approval to proceed, you can file with the Department of Buildings. If you did not already. Again, a representative from the management company signs the paperwork for the DOB filing, as well as you and the architect. Be aware that if you make changes after the approval you should submit these changes to the management company, Co-Op board, building architect for review and file a Post Approval Amendment with DOB. At the completion of the work, the building architect may come to the job site to do an inspection. Make sure you always hire licensed and insured professionals, even for small apartment renovations. The contractor should be licensed and insured. The architect should be insured and be a qualified Registered Architect.
Apartment renovations can be stressful. The more prepared you are the better off you will be.
Renovating Your Co-Op or Condo and Apartment Renovation Rules
As an architect in NYC we do many renovations but every project is different and has its own challenges. The renovation process and building rules are complicated and quite involved. In this article, we reviewed some of the basic issues with regards to Co-Op and Condo Board Approvals. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.
If you would like to read more about apartment renovations we have another article you can check out Apartment Renovation NYC.
Thank You for reading our blog post on Condo and Co-Op Alteration Agreements and Renovating Your Co-Op.
We wish you the best of luck with your apartment renovation. Please leave questions or comments below. If you wish to discuss a specific project you can contact us directly. We will be happy to hear about your project. You can learn more about our services as Apartment renovation Architects.
Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.