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Co-Oppressive

When a co-op is the landlord, renters’ concerns sometimes get shoved aside.

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Min Miller’s family lived in Washington Heights, and the back-and-forth to her daughter’s school on West 84th Street had grown inconvenient. They started the hunt for a new apartment in late January and quickly found a convertible two-bedroom in a prewar co-op on West 87th Street. That’s when their troubles began.

The board wanted hundreds of dollars in application and credit-check fees, as well as for the lead-paint inspection, $1,000 for a move-in deposit, plus banking statements, tax records, a memo from their CPA, and reference letters. Surprised at the demands, Miller “ran around for a week” gathering paperwork to submit in early February. Her broker assured her all would be well; the family’s credit was impeccable, their cash reserves ample. Yet by the end of February, the board still hadn’t met them, even though they’d made it clear they needed to move soon. Incensed, they rescinded their application and scrambled. “It was so frustrating,” she says. “They don’t understand renters.”

That co-op boards put would-be residents through the paces is nothing new. But renters, especially those who apply to top-shelf co-ops—either because the board owns a few rental units or because a shareholder is renting his out—aren’t always aware that they will be measured by the same methods. They have to submit the same package, pay all the fees, and wait like everyone else for an answer, explains Justine Rosenberg of Brown Harris Stevens. The trouble, of course, is that renters’ leases have a way of running out while all that goes on, and in this busy market, co-ops are taking longer than ever to approve new residents.

Bellmarc’s Janice Silver says though the demands are burdensome, they’re meant to protect residents. “They have to apply the same strict standards,” she says. “You don’t want someone who plays the tuba all day and night just because they didn’t check.” Miller, who’s still waiting to get her move-in deposit back, says she won’t even consider co-ops when she’s ready to buy. “I agree you want good people moving in, but this is ridiculous!” she says. “I’ll never go to a co-op again.”


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