Case Notes in


First published: Feb 2024
In Guaranties We Trust

TAKEAWAY Based on a change in federal law back in 1986, many cooperative shareholders have sought to transfer their shares to a trust, for tax or estate purposes. When a board is faced with such a request, there is much to be said for simply refusing it, as well as all similar requests. Cooperative living has always contemplated ownership by, and a community of, individuals, not trusts and their beneficiaries. Trusts are actually not legal entities per se, like LLCs or corporations, and a trust might better be described as a legal arrangement by which a trustee holds title to property and administers it for the benefit of beneficiaries. The complications that can arise from dealing with an apartment that is held by a trust are not insignificant, and since there is no upside to the cooperative itself if the shares are held by a trust, denial of the request outright may be the cleanest and best option for a board. Still, if a board were inclined to allow ownership of apartments by trusts, they would be wise to follow the path chosen by the plaintiff in this case. Here, the cooperative demanded and got a solid, well-crafted, and unconditional guaranty of payment by a solvent individual. As this case demonstrates, the courts will hold a guarantor liable for unpaid maintenance plus attorneys’ fees, and the cooperative does not have to wait around to get paid until trust and estate issues are resolved in Surrogate’s Court.

Read full article
First published: Apr 2021
Olcott v. 308 Owners Corp

There are two lessons in the story of the Olcotts. The first is that one must consider the precise language of the proprietary lease, and if a provision contains the word “reasonable,” the protection afforded by the business judgment rule is lost, and the courts will review the board’s decision and make its own decision based upon what it believes to be reasonable. The other lesson is more abstract. In this case, a man and his family had lived in a co-op apartment in his father’s name for many years, without incident and without a history of arrears. Suddenly, there is an issue about whether he would be worthy of being a shareholder. Is a judge really going to evict the family? Boards must consider all of the facts. What is legally correct and what is fair given all of the facts are often two different things. And if the matter lands in court, a judge, who is only human, may make a determination based on what’s reasonable rather than on what’s purely legal.

Read full article
First published: Jun 2016
Board of Managers, Soundings Condominium v. Foerster

It’s unusual for a co-op or condo board to initiate a legal action based on misrepresentations in the purchase application. The case merely denied Foerster’s motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, there remain many issues and unanswered questions. In this case, the misrepresentations were plain and undeniable. But what happens when the misrepresentation is less obvious? And how long can a person be held to a representation made in a purchase application? Clearly, no one believes that a representation made 20 years earlier should be binding. Another question is whether the Social Services Law requires a condo or co-op to allow a group home to be in place even if the governing documents require that apartments be used only for residential purposes. And what rights – or obligations – will the initial sellers have? We don’t have the answers to all of these questions, but the board’s decision to sue here – and the court’s refusal to dismiss the claim for rescinding the sale – should be taken into account by any purchaser seeking to “put one over” on a board.

Read full article