Q. I have an upstairs co-op shareholder who has four grandchildren every weekend. She allows these kids to run, jump, stomp, and roughhouse from the time they arrive Fridays from 6:00 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. A letter produced by the co-op’s lawyer was sent to stop, as well as carpeting the area, to no avail. Can the co-op issue a fine and add to the house rules that if anyone in the co-op doesn’t abide by the rules, they will be charged a fine for not complying?
A. “A co-op is governed by the provisions of its proprietary lease (sometimes called an “occupancy agreement”),” says attorney Jeanne M. Miller of the Law Offices of Jeanne M. Miller, LLC, in Island Lake. “Legally, the proprietary lease is tantamount to a lease by the member with the housing cooperative, and should contain rules and regulations binding upon the cooperative’s occupants similar to those provisions found in typical rental leases, addressing such things as restrictions against pets, rules regarding the use of common areas, and generally restraints on disturbing other occupants. With regard to the latter, house rules include rules of conduct developed by the co-op to ensure harmonious cooperative living and, therefore, typically cover issues such as noise levels and the prevention of other disturbances to occupants. Accordingly, the proprietary lease and the house rules should be reviewed to determine what particular rights and obligations of members and directors of the board exist as to compliance and enforcement.
“A co-op’s board of directors is elected by the members/shareholders to govern the housing cooperative, including setting policy and enforcing rules and regulations. Typically, the proprietary lease requires each member, family and guests of the member to faithfully observe all of the house rules, lest they be in default under the lease. Your board actually has the duty and obligation to enforce the rules and regulations. So, yes, assuming your house rules include restraints on noise and disturbances by occupants, your board has the authority to add “teeth” to its existing rules and regulations by imposing reasonable penalties, such as monetary fines, for noncompliance if not already provided in your governing documents. As an extreme measure, the board even has authority to evict a member who fails to abide by the cooperative’s rules and regulations, and to repossess the unit.”