Co-Op Apartment Renovations & Alteration Agreements(Last Updated On: February 25, 2018)
A Condo or Co-Op alteration agreement is a contract between a Condo or Co-Op board and the apartment owner. The agreement will outline the buildings regulations and responsibilities of all parties involved. Alteration agreements must be signed before renovating an apartment. 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. Let’s look at some of the issues involved with renovating your apartment in a Condo or Co-Op.
Getting Board Approval For Apartment Renovations.
The first thing you should do if you want to renovate your Co-Op is consult with an architect. If you are in New York City you may need an architect by law dependent on the extent of work in the renovation. Once you and the architect have defined the scope of work the architect can let you know if you have to file with DOB. You may file plans with the Department of Buildings (DOB) to get approvals and permits (see another post on Filing with DOB). Apartment renovations are typically filed with the DOB as an Alt 2 application. You might need an asbestos test when you renovate ask your architect. The one thing you will always do is get board approval. Lets assume you will need to file your apartment renovation with DOB. Here is the typical protocol of what to do before you ever get to that point.
Co-Op Alteration Agreements
First things first. Notify your Co-Op board and building management that you intend to do work in 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. Your architect will complete a set of drawings for the proposed work. You will submit the drawings to your Co-Op board and building management company.
Read Your Condo Co-Op Alteration Agreement
Co-Ops will have a management company handling this and they will want to review the plans. The management company will have their own architect or engineer working as a consultant. 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 not approve the job outright. They will send you a list of comments in regards to your project.
Don’t Panic, I know Apartment Renovations can be stressful
Your architect will address their issues and respond with revised drawings and a letter. The letter will address point by point the previous comments. This process can go on for several months or be very quick, it depends on the building and the people involved. The most important thing you need at this phase is patience. Remember this building architect is only working in an advisory position. Your Co-Op board has the final say.
I ran into a situation where the building architect would not approve enlarging a bathroom into a closet. The client went to the Co-Op board monthly meeting and asked them for approval, and they did approve it. If they say its OK it supersedes the building architect, provided it does not violate codes. These building architects can ask for a great deal of information and can be restrictive in what they will let you do. I once had a building architect ask me to do structural calculations for replacing a 5′ bathtub with a 6′ bathtub. There can be disputes over what type of waterproofing membrane to put in the bathroom. Whether or not you need IC rated lights, and all sorts of details.
This can be a lengthy process but if you think it is out of hand go directly to the Co-Op board they are in charge. With a little back and forth and some drawing revisions your architect can handle it in most cases. You may also run into situations where the Co-Op board instructs the building architect to look for reasons to deny the application. Yes that does happen. In those cases do everything you can to work with their rules. If you think you need a lawyer find one with experience in these issues. Sometimes Apartment renovations can be lengthy and complicated and sometimes they are quick and smooth.
I suggest getting a letter to proceed before you file drawings with the Department of Buildings. You never know if you are going to have design changes due to the building managements review process. Always be aware of building rules. I mentioned enlarging bathrooms, many buildings have a flat out rule that bathroom enlargements are not permitted. Some buildings allow it.
Someone from yuor board or management company will cosign the paperwork for the Department Of Buildings. You will need to get their information and send it to your architect before you the architect starts the paperwork.
NYC Co-Op Alteration Agreement
Always review your building’s alteration agreement. 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 these rules also make your job bigger. For example if you replace plumbing fixtures they may require you to 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. Reading the Condo or Co-Op alteration agreement is incredibly important. We once worked in a building where the alteration agreement came with a 300 page book of building rules.
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. A representative from the management company will be signing 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, and building architect for review. 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. You will hire a licensed and insured contractor of course. Make sure the architect is insured and that they are a Registered Architect.
Apartment renovations can be stressful but they do not have to be the more prepared you are the better off you will be.
Check out the video below of an apartment we renovated in Manhattan or follow this link – Apartment renovation on UWS
Thank You for reading our blog post on Condo and Co-Op Alteration Agreements
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.
Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.