A Powdery Nuisance on the Terrace
Where to Put the Snow
I am a shareholder in a small brownstone co-op. My unit has a terrace directly above my neighbor’s bedroom ceiling. The house rules and the proprietary lease require me to keep my terrace free from snow, but the rules do not explain where I should put the snow. Aside from shoveling it into my shower to melt, there is no obvious solution. I am fortunate that the neighbors who live in the garden apartment allow me to toss the snow down three stories into their yard. But if they were not so accommodating, where would I put it? And every time it snows, my downstairs neighbor lets me know about the weather. I believe this is her way of reminding me to remove the snow from my terrace before it melts.
Upper West Side, Manhattan
Snow has a funny way of piling up in places where we do not want it, like on the sidewalk, or, as you have observed, on a terrace. Finding a suitable place for the powdery nuisance is not always a simple task, and in your case, the answer is particularly elusive. But if your apartment comes with a terrace, the burden of shoveling falls on your shoulders.
Most co-ops and condominiums require residents with private balconies or terraces to shovel the snow and clear the ice that accumulates there. Residents are also required to maintain the space, keeping it free of leaves in the fall and keeping drains free from dirt and debris. While the rules are loud and clear about what to clean up, they are typically silent about how to clean up.
“It may very well be that they have to put it in the shower or tub,” said Steven R. Wagner, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. “It seems crazy, but there may not be another answer to that.”
You are certainly fortunate to have neighbors willing to accept a shower of snow from above. But keep in mind that wet or icy snow can become a heavy mess when dropped from three stories, posing a potential safety hazard for anyone who might be in the garden while you shovel. If your terrace faced the street, for example, knocking the snow to the sidewalk below could pose a safety risk and evoke the ire of your co-op board. “I would be reluctant to tell people that they should throw snow or ice off the balcony,” Mr. Wagner said. “If it does injure somebody, you could get sued.”
As silly as it might sound, consider shoveling the snow into a bucket — or, ideally, a larger container like a plastic garden tub — and, as you suggested, let it melt in the shower. Place towels in the hallway to catch any excess slush while you’re en route to the bathroom.
As for your immediate neighbor, the next time you see snow in the forecast, alert her to the looming storm, letting her know you plan to shovel as soon as you are able. This might ease her anxieties and, with luck, spare you some unnecessary nagging.
Fixing Faulty Windows
I am a shareholder in a co-op. My windows do not open and cannot be fixed by the building handyman. They have never opened properly in all the time I have owned the apartment. Who is responsible for replacing the windows?
Upper East Side, Manhattan
Windows are generally the co-op’s problem, and not yours. But to be certain, read through the proprietary lease and the house rules. Most leases prohibit tenants from replacing or repairing windows, since that kind of work would affect the exterior of the building, which belongs to the co-op and not to you.
“Unless the unit owner damaged the window, replacement would be generally the co-op’s responsibility,” said Darryl Vernon, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. Frequently, when a building has aging windows throughout, co-ops will do a buildingwide window replacement as a capital project.
But you are not entirely off the hook. While some leases require the co-op to pay for these repairs, others put the cost burden on the shareholder, according to Ron Kaplan, a real estate lawyer who represents condominiums and co-ops. If the lease is silent about the cost (which is certainly possible), then the issue would be governed by the city housing maintenance code, which means the co-op would have to pay for it.
Renovating Neighboring Units
I live in a building that is a rent-stabilized, tenement-style walk-up with 20 units. My landlord often renovates vacant apartments, putting in new kitchens and bathrooms and raising the rent substantially when the work is complete. He has never applied for or posted the proper documents from the New York City Department of Buildings. He says he does not need to, but I do not believe that is true. Who is right? Is there any danger to the tenants who live here without the proper oversight from the city? And what can be done?
East Harlem, Manhattan
Not all remodeling jobs require permits. For example, you do not need permits to resurface floors, replace plumbing fixtures or paint walls. You can even replace all the cabinets in a kitchen without permits. But if you start moving plumbing around or making any other structural changes that could affect gas lines or electrical work, then you would need a permit.
If you suspect your landlord has not filed the proper permits, report the situation. Call 311 and anonymously report a claim of work without proper permits to the Department of Buildings. The department should send out an inspector and investigate.
Even if none of the work requires permits, substandard remodeling jobs could certainly affect you and your neighbors.
“Shoddy construction could result in leaks,” said Mauricio Salazar, a principal at Salazar Architecture. “This is especially true of bathrooms.”