Today’s news:

Co-ops, condo boards need state agency to fight abuses

Recently, Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village, wrote a letter concerning state Senate bill S7958 (“Albany bill would cause problems for co-op and condo boards,” June 17). I can understand why he opposes it. After all, as president of the board he would prefer not having any government agency looking over his shoulder should shareholders question his board’s decisions.

But on the other hand, I am a shareholder in the cooperative community he mentioned: North Shore Towers. Just last week at our annual shareholders meeting our attorney, Errol Brett, was asked about a policy to enforce the requirement for residency of our board members, which is stated clearly in our bylaws.

He replied that we do not have any policy in place. Obviously, then, this bylaw is not enforced. We have no way of knowing if any other rules or bylaws have no policy for enforcement. Our property management firm, Charles A. Greenthal Management, was fined several thousands of dollars because it was not properly licensed by the state.

Several years ago, in an election in which nearly 5 million shares were voted on, I lost by 806 shares and was told by the board I had to go to court to sue for a recount. Ultimately, the judge agreed I was entitled to the ballots in order to have a recount. I paid my attorney $5,000 in legal fees and our board paid somewhere between $50,000 and $80,000. No one can get an accurate answer to the question of the amount of the fee and why it was so high.

If there was an agency we as shareholders and condominium owners could go to, this kind of abuse would not exist. We are not even told how our energy bills are computed. I could go on, but I think the point has been made. There is not a single agency, with the exception of the state Department of State in licensing issues, that will help us. If shareholders have an issue, in many cases the only avenue available is litigation, which involves high costs so, as a result, most boards do as they please.

The cost of funding this ombudsman agency is $6 per unit — a small price to pay for the opportunity to have somewhere to go with legitimate complaints. Friedrich wrote that passage of this law will imperil the tight budgets of co-ops and condos. Quite the contrary. It will make boards more aware of what should and should not be done and how to protect the rights of residents.

By the way, Friedrich claims there are many agencies that have this kind of oversight. I have been in the real estate business for almost 40 years and do not know the agencies he refers to. I hope he can enlighten all of us and let us know to where we can bring our complaints.

Dianne Stromfeld

North Shore Towers

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