Rudd Realty Management Blog
Throughout New York City, multi-unit residential buildings are grappling with the new requirement that all properties have a smoking policy in place by August 28, 2018. Smoking policy can range from simply following the City’s current smoking laws, which prohibit smoking in all indoor public spaces as well as certain outdoor places, to an outright ban throughout the building.
For co-op and condo boards, there are many issues to weigh when deciding what your building’s smoking policy will be. One is that while your policy must be written and in place by the end of August, you can change it moving forward, so you don’t have to feel that your policy is set in stone for the future. Another is that to create a smoke-free building, you need to have the agreement of a supermajority of shareholders or unit owners in order to change the bylaws or proprietary leases.
City regulations already prohibit smoking in all public areas of the building, including the lobby, stairwells, hallways, elevator, basement, etc. However, the law does allow smoking inside the apartments themselves. Most buildings are choosing to use some form of this policy, and to spell out exactly where smoking is allowed and where it is prohibited. Our management team has developed a number of sample policies for our boards to choose from, and we are working to ensure that all our buildings have set their policies and distributed them to all owners and residents, as required, by the August 28 deadline.
If residents in your building are concerned about the smell of smoke emanating from inside certain units and bothering other residents, we have solutions, including the installation of smoke filters in those apartments. An engineering study can be done to track the smoke and determine where it is coming from. Building policy can then require those residents to install air filters to prevent the odor from spreading beyond their unit.
We have also worked with buildings to implement a complete ban on smoking, when that is the consensus among apartment owners. We have crafted policies that make it clear that there is no smoking allowed anywhere on the premises, and helped boards obtain the supermajority of owners required to vote the policy into effect. This enables those buildings to call themselves “Smoke-Free Buildings,” and we have found that this type of policy actually increases the value of each apartment. With smoking on the wane, and a mere 20 percent of New York City residents active smokers, smoke-free properties are very appealing to a growing portion of buyers in the New York real estate market.
Whatever path your building decides to take, your property manager should be helping your board create, distribute and implement the proper policy. Time is of the essence to meet the deadline and avoid potential penalties. Please contact us if we can help. Since 1984, Rudd Realty has focused exclusively on Manhattan property management. Our professional team has decades of experience, and we work closely with all of our properties, from co-ops and condos to rentals, commercial and mixed-use buildings of all sizes.
Throughout my 35 years in the property management business, it seems that I have dealt with every kind of incident and challenge that could possibly occur. And while many issues are discussed constantly—from the cost of fuel to the ongoing need to meet City regulations—there are some topics that many boards hope will never arise at all. Sensitive issues like bedbugs or other infestations can affect any type of building, and potentially have an impact on all residents. But even issues like hoarding exist much more frequently than you may think. And although it’s not a topic that most people want to discuss, it’s essential to recognize when it has become a situation that can impact the quality of life not only of the resident who is doing the hoarding, but of all of their neighbors as well.
It seems like nearly every building in the City has at least one person who is a hoarder or has tendencies in that direction. In fact, in one property we manage, there were numerous hoarders, which forced us to examine and address the disorder, which now is being treated like a disease.
The Infamous Collyer Case
Of course, you can’t start a discussion on hoarding in New York City without bringing up the Collyer brothers. Homer and Langley Collyer gained notoriety back in the 1940s for filling their brownstone, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 128th Street, from floor to ceiling with everything from newspapers to inventions to cast-offs from other people. They became recluses, rarely going out, and even booby-trapped the place to prevent anyone from breaking in and stealing their trove of “valuables.” Both life-long bachelors died in the building, and police theorized that Langley, who was caring for an ailing Homer, was crushed when he crawled through a tunnel of trash and set off one of his own booby-trap trip wires.
While it is doubtful that anyone could amass a mountain of junk comparable to the Collyers, it’s best to address a potential hoarding situation before it escalates. In one of our buildings, the board became aware of a hoarding situation because one of the unit owners spent virtually all night in the building lobby. The owner even began to use the staff bathroom, since theirs had been rendered unusable due to the amount of stuff “stored” there.
People with a hoarding disorder will tell you they are saving things for future use, or for a family member who might need an item, or because of the tremendous value of something, but it really is a disease that should be identified and treated.
Identify and Solve Hoarding Problems
In the case of this hoarder, we made a plan with the board and took appropriate action, enlisting the help of the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA), who helped the unit owner get counseling to recognize and address the problem. We explained to them that if the fire department ever came in they would get a violation, along with a fine, and that the accumulation of “stuff” in the apartment had become dangerous. We informed them that if we called the health department, they would again be cited, and would have to pay another fine. Eventually, through a concerted effort by the board and the management team at Rudd, combined with the threat of litigation, we were able to set up a program to clean out the apartment, monitor it on a regular basis, get an exterminator inside monthly, and return the place to a habitable residence.
In another situation, an estate took ownership of a unit in one of our buildings. The family lived elsewhere, never used the place, and never even cleared out the furniture and contents. Even food had been left inside the apartment when it was vacated. After other owners complained about the lack of use and the odors, we were able to convince the family to allow us to get into the apartment, clean out all the food, and set up a program of regular exterminating to prevent vermin and bugs from infiltrating the building. We even turned off the water to the apartment so there would not be any leaks into other units. Thanks to the diligent attention of our management team and the board, we are now discussing the possibility of selling this apartment to a neighbor who is interested in combining it with their apartment.
We even had a situation where people used their apartment as a storage unit. They did not live there, but kept going to the unit and adding stuff to it on a regular basis. In this case, we had to threaten to take them to court. Through careful and constant negotiation, and again, the concern of the board, we were able to convince them that they had to clean out the place, allow us to enter and inspect on a regular basis and to have an exterminator spray monthly. This situation is now well under control.
So if you find a hoarder in one of your properties, or someone manifesting those tendencies, there are things that can be done. First you must identify the situation, and you will need the help of the building staff for this. Then you need to work closely with the board to come up with a plan to help the person involved and get them to understand the serious consequences their behavior is causing—or might cause—to the building and everyone in it. And finally you need to monitor the situation on a regular basis to make sure the hoarding does not occur again.
Working together as a team, a good manager can help a concerned board solve hoarding problems in their building, and keep the property safe and well run for all involved. Rudd Realty has been providing Manhattan property management services since 1984. We work with all types of buildings, from co-ops and condos to rentals, commercial and mixed-use. Please call us to see how you can benefit from our expertise. 212-319-5000.
This is a great place to read about important issues for apartment owners, renters and boards. Company President Fred Rudd has a wealth of expertise from his decades in the property management business. Founded in 1984, Rudd Realty is exclusively focused on Manhattan Property Management. Our client buildings range from under 10 units to over 250, from pre-war to post-modern. Our close-knit team of managers and executives brings decades of experience to the table, while maintaining a forward-thinking approach. Our mission is to provide personalized, team-based management that delivers comprehensive, responsive service to our clients. We will never allow our customers to get lost in “the system.” Our senior staff gets involved and stays involved, offering personal attention throughout our relationship with every one of our properties.