Common Insurance Claims for Renters, Condo/Co-Op Owners and Those With Chubb Insurance

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Having insurance makes it easier to sleep at night when you know your possessions and financial future are protected. But the idea of having to actually make a claim might give you nightmares.

 

The best way to protect yourself when making a claim is to understand not just the process but the protection you have before you have to use it. Stick around to learn more about common insurance claims, including those that are common with certain policies.

 

What is an insurance claim?

If you’ve never had to make an insurance claim, consider yourself lucky. Whenever you have loss or sustain damage caused by a peril, you can make a claim to your insurance company, and be financially compensated for your loss. This is why it’s important to not just have insurance, but fully understand what it covers and if there are any limitations or exclusions to your coverage.

 

Making a claim isn’t difficult but there are several steps involved. If you’re working with an experienced broker, the process should be painless as they walk you through it. We’ve seen our share of claims and wanted to go over some of the most common, by policy type, so that you can be better prepared if you find yourself making a similar claim one day.

 

Common Renters Insurance Claims

Renters insurance is a must for renters, as a landlord’s policy will only cover the structure of the building and not the items in your apartment. Consider the following common claims when trying to decide if it’s worth it (hint: it is!)

 

Fire

We know that you’re responsible and rocking out this thing called life, but we can’t say the same for your neighbor. If they leave a candle burning that causes a fire in their unit, which then spreads into yours while you’re out having dinner, the loss of your items can be financially devastating. With renters insurance, your items are replaced based on the type of policy you’ve chosen, helping you get back on your feet.

 

Theft

Renters insurance can cover you from theft in two ways. The first way applies to theft that takes place in your home. If your apartment is broken into and the thief helps themselves to a few of your things, they’ll be replaced. But it can also cover you while you travel. If you’re out of town on a long weekend and someone snatches your suitcase while you’re checking into your hotel, the items inside would be covered. However, your policy may not include protection during travel automatically. You may need to add on an endorsement to ensure you’re covered.

 

Water damage

We see this claim quite a bit so it’s important to note that there are limitations when it comes to water damage. You will be covered if water damage is caused by a burst pipe. But if you want to be protected from a sewer backup or sump pump failure, you’ll need to speak to your insurance agent about adding an endorsement to your policy. Finally, flooding is a separate policy all together. If you live in a flood zone, speak to your agent about your coverage options.  

 

Common Co-op Insurance Claims

We find that common co-op claims are similar to renters insurance claims but here are some you may come across if you’re a co-op unit owner.

 

Personal liability

This is a big one that many don’t realize is part of their co-op insurance. If someone is injured in your co-op from a simple accident like tripping on a rug or falling over a chair, their medical bills become your responsibility. Co-op insurance has a cap with this type of coverage, depending on the amount you’ve chosen. Speak with your insurance agent if you’re not clear on your personal liability coverage caps.

 

Also, should that best friend of yours decide to sue you for lost wages or emotional distress due to their injury, co-op insurance covers litigation costs until your cap is reached.

 

Another person’s property

You’re normally not clumsy but you have your days. Imagine your friend is over and they brought their new laptop. You’re enjoying its features and impressive resolution when you suddenly knock over your glass of wine onto the keyboard. You try and mop it up, but you know it’s too late. The damage is done. Co-op insurance will save your friendship by covering the laptop.

 

Additional living expenses

Here’s another claim that many are unaware of. If your co-op becomes uninhabitable, either due to a fire or other covered incident, and you need to relocate to a hotel or family member’s house out of state, your coverage will reimburse you for your traveling, food, and other expenses.

 

What most don’t think about is that even though their co-op will be rebuilt with their landlord’s insurance policy and their items will be replaced by their co-op insurance policy, they could be left with extra bills due to dislocation. Having this added peace of mind will ensure a disaster doesn’t throw you off track.

 

Common Chubb Insurance Claims

common insurance claims chubb jewlery

Chubb Insurance is for high-end valuables. It provides added protection a standard policy can’t due to coverage caps and limitations. Here are some common Chubb Insurance claims you may find yourself making.

 

Jewelry

Most standard renters insurance policies cover jewelry but only up to a certain dollar amount. Therefore, a Chubb insurance policy is ideal for anyone with a healthy jewelry collection. Provide them with all the information about your pieces, such as cut, carat weight, materials, and cost, and they will be 100% covered.

 

For example, if your 2-carat engagement ring falls down the drain or slips off while window shopping on Fifth Avenue, a Chubb policy will cover it.

 

Art

If you own a truly one of a kind piece of art, having extra protection is a must. If a fire damages your Andy Warhol original, knowing that it will be compensated will allow you to display it with pride and confidence.

 

Antiques

Most antiques are simply irreplaceable, and their monetary value can be through the roof. So, if your antique dining table is lost in a covered incident or your great-great grandfather’s pocket watch is stolen, knowing that they will be compensated for is reassuring.

 

Collectibles

Whether you collect vintage coins, expensive bottles of wine, or classic automobiles, insuring your collection is a must. Chubb offers two ways to do this. You can either go with a blanket policy that protects the full collection or insure each individual piece. You can also use a combination of the two types for superior protection.

 

As you can see, there are a variety of policies out there and plenty of claims that you could find yourself making. Whether you rent an apartment or co-op or own unique and valuable items, insurance is simply a must. Taking the time to secure coverage today will provide you with a calmer tomorrow.

Confused About Co-ops? Here’s A Checklist To Buying A Co-Op In NYC

Buying a co-op in NYC is no easy feat. It takes organization, persistence, a clean financial history, and a little bit of luck. But considering about 85% of New York City’s apartments are co-ops, don’t sell yourself short. You can do this.

 

But because no one is born knowing how to buy into a co-op, we’ve put together a checklist for finding a co-op in New York.  

 

  1. Polish up your credit

Your credit is going to be a main factor in whether you get approved for a co-op. So take the time to get copies of your credit reports and review them. If there are delinquencies or issues, act now. Pay off anything overdue and improve your debt to income ratio. Depending on your current credit score, this could be the toughest part of the co-op buying process.

 

  1. Get pre-approved

Ready to talk to the bank? Even though you won’t be applying for a traditional mortgage, you’ll still need to be approved for a loan. Once you’re approved, make sure you have a copy of the letter stating the amount you qualify for.

 

Keep in mind that co-ops have the final say on income requirements. They could ask for a higher down payment percentage or require an all-cash purchase. So in the land of co-op buying, an approval letter doesn’t guarantee an accepted offer, but it is still a necessary step for most when buying a co-op.

 

  1. Find your dream real estate agent

Working with a real estate agent or broker who knows the ins and outs of purchasing co-ops will be critical. This will ensure you get the best deal and in record time. Ask for referrals and take your time exploring your options. Look at reviews and don’t be afraid to ask contenders plenty of questions.

 

  1. Dream big and discuss your ideal building, neighborhood, and unit

Once you have an agent you mesh well with, discuss your wish list with them. They’ll be honest with you and let you know what’s possible in your price range and what you’ll most likely have to compromise on. Discuss square footage, your ideal neighborhood, and any amenities or features you’re after.

 

  1. Start shopping around

Now it’s time for the fun part. Start touring available co-op units. Keep in mind that they go fast, which is why you’ll want to know exactly what you’re looking for. Don’t settle but don’t let something minor deter you from an otherwise great unit.

 

6. Submit an offer

Once you find a unit you’re interested in, it’s time to submit an offer. Your agent will handle the paperwork. All you’ll have to do is read it over and sign. Then sit back and wait while your offer is reviewed by the seller. Take this time to explore other options though in case your offer is rejected.

 

  1. Negotiate

While some offers are accepted as-is, chances are you’ll have to negotiate a bit. The unit owner’s agent will contact your agent and they’ll battle it out. While you can envision an old western dual, this will most likely be over the phone. This is where it helps to have an experienced agent who understands your interests.

 

  1. Prepare for the board

If a price and terms are agreed upon, it’s time for your agent to start working on a presentation called a “Board Package”. This is what will be submitted to the co-op board. If yours is approved, an interview will be scheduled.

 

  1. Interview with the co-op board

Here’s another tough step. Your board interview will be strict and borderline invasive. They’ll want to know just about everything about you, including what you ate for breakfast on your first day of kindergarten.

 

In all seriousness, they’ll closely look at your financial history, employment history, any criminal records, and miscellaneous public data they see fit. They’ll also ask you plenty of questions to see if you’re the type of tenant that will mesh well with the rest of the co-op community.

 

  1. Final walk through

If the co-op board falls in love with you (and why wouldn’t they) you’re almost at the finish line. Once you get the word, it’s time to schedule a final walk through where you’ll check for any issues or defects that need to be addressed before the closing.

 

  1. Close

If you’re happy with the state of the unit, the final selling price, and terms of the co-op board, it’s time to close. This is a time-consuming process, usually lasting several hours, but it’s not complicated. You’ll be reading over plenty of paperwork and signing your life away. But once it’s done, you’re an official co-op owner!

 

  1. Get insurance

Think your work is done? Not quite yet! One of the first major steps you’ll want to take is securing co-op insurance. This will protect your items in your new home from fire, theft, water damage (besides flooding), and more. You’ll also be financially protected should someone injure themselves in your residence.

 

Feel free to reach out to us anytime with questions. Co-op Insurance is our bread ‘n’ butter, so much so, we named our business after it. We’re happy to help in your search of complete coverage.

 

  1. Pack

It’s finally time to pack! Stay organized by grouping related items together and sift through them as you go. There’s no sense in bringing items into your new co-op unit that you’ll never use. Label accordingly and leave one box open for the items you’ll still need up until moving day.

 

  1. Move

The big day is finally here! Whether you’ve hired a moving company or rounded up a few of your friends, it’s going to be a long day. Stay hydrated, stay organized, and stay motivated.

 

  1. Enjoy

Congratulations! Enjoy your first moments in your new co-op. Savor them. Make a few plans, pat yourself on the back, and dream about the future a little. You’ve earned it!

 

There you have it, folks. There are plenty of steps involved when buying into a co-op. That’s why it’s best to start sooner than later, especially if your credit needs a little work. After all, your dream unit could be sitting empty right now.

 

How long does it take to close on a co-op? After the initial contracts are signed, you can expect the final closing to take place 2-3 months later. If you’re able to make an all cash purchase, the closing can be expedited by at least a month.

 

Ready to find your piece of NYC? It’s out there and we hope our checklist for finding a co-op in New York helps you find your way to it.       

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New York Co-Op Insurance FAQ

You know you need insurance; whether your a co-op or condo owner, or just a renter, figuring it out year to year, if you’re living in NYC or New Jersey you need insurance for where you call home. It’s something you’ve been meaning to take care of for a couple of weeks now. But you just don’t know where to start. You’ve done a few online searches, asked a few friends, but the process is still overwhelming.

 

We’d like to introduce ourselves.

We’re Co-op Insurance, a NYC-based insurance brokerage that prides ourselves in being the authority in co-op, condo, and renters insurance.

 

But we’re not here to talk about ourselves. We’re here to educate, guide, and answer your questions regarding co-op insurance. Whether you’re a current client or just someone passing through, we invite you to stick around and see if we can help solve your insurance inquiries.

 

What’s the difference between insurance agents and brokers?

Though similar, there is a difference between agents and brokers. While both sell insurance, the approach is difference. An agent typically works for one insurance company and sells their policies to clients.

 

A broker though works for a brokerage and is not tied down to one insurance company. They work directly with a client by listening to their needs and offering a variety of policy options from several different companies.

Advantages of working with a brokerage

Not sure if an agent or broker is right for you? Consider the advantages of working with a brokerage like Co-Op Insurance.

 

We don’t charge

What we mean is that you won’t be charged an additional fee on top of your premium. So don’t worry that by working with a brokerage you’ll have less to spend on your policy. Using a broker should cost the same as purchasing direct.

 

We’re friendly

Remember that working with a brokerage doesn’t cost you anything extra. In fact, you’re getting more for your money because we’ll do all the leg work for you, let you know what policy options you have, and help you decide based on your budget and needs.

 

We’re smart

We understand insurance (we kinda have to). So if you don’t (and that’s okay), we can be your insurance resource. We love being able to help those who feel less than confident in the insurance world make decisions that will save them money and protect their finances. Even if you do understand insurance more than the average individual, a second set of eyes looking over your policies never hurts.

 

We’ll save you time and money.

If you’re like most people, you need more of both. Don’t waste your Sunday searching insurance policies online. We’ll do it for you. Don’t spend money on policy extensions you don’t need or risk your financial future by having a policy that doesn’t cover you as much as you thought it did. Whether you already have policies in place or are searching for the first time, let our experience and resources save you time and money while ensuring proper protection.

 

Real People, No Algorithm

real-people-no-algorithmHave you ever visited an insurance company’s website and been bombarded with offers for a free insurance quote? A pop-up asks you for your info and a “custom” quote is emailed to you in a matter of seconds.

 

While some companies do provide fast quotes, do you ever wonder how accurate they are? The details they have are minimal. Without asking serious questions or even talking to you, how do they know the type of coverage you need? Is this really how you want to make sure your belongings are protected?

 

Those quotes are generated by algorithms. By entering a few small bits of information, like your gender, birthdate, home address, and the material your building is made of, you can get an insurance quote. But the prices are based on a calculated risk that might not be accurately representative of you.

 

At Co-op Insurance, we take the time to not just know your information but understand it. We’ll ask you questions, get to know your insurance needs, and make sure that your policy accurately covers you. Do you want another generic quote, and therefore, generic coverage? Or do you want something that’s completely unique to your situation?

 

Insurance 101

Have a few questions about insurance? We’ve put together this FAQ section that should tackle at least a few. Have a question you don’t see above? Ask us in a message and we’ll get back to you right away.

 

Understanding the NYC Apartment Lottery – An 80/20 Program

Thinking of getting a place in New York City? People might call you crazy. Snagging a comfortable yet affordable apartment in the Big Apple is harder than winning the lottery. Or is it? Did you know there’s an entire NYC apartment lottery? 

 

John Oliver has a bit on his show, Last Week Tonight, about how unbelievably difficult it is to win the lottery (the Mega Millions that is). And we have to say, we knew it was unlikely to win Mega Millions, but we didn’t know that the real chances of winning were 1-in-176 million (or basically the odds of you getting eaten by a shark and struck by lightning simultaneously).

 

Let’s just say it’s not very likely.

 

Luckily, there are other (more reasonable, and less infuriating) lotteries that you can enter. Lotteries such as an NYC apartment lottery offer applicants the chance to save several thousands of dollars a year in rent by simply filling out an application and moving through the process. Here’s how it works.

 

What is the New York City apartment lottery?

Unlike more traditional lotteries, where the money you spend on lottery tickets essentially fuels the jackpot, an NYC apartment lottery is subsidized by the government. Developers set aside 20% of the available units in the building for low to middle income renters.

Sky Residences apartment available in the nyc apartment lottery

That’s not to say that those apartment units are of lower quality then the rest of the units in the building (though we can’t guarantee amenities like those at Sky or similar luxury buildings). But you still may have access to a doorman, laundry, or a gym, which might seem too good to be true for the price you will be paying.

 

The reason they’re so affordable is because the government covers the difference in rent. So, if the apartment is $1200 (unsubsidized) then your subsidized payment may end up being around $600 (theoretically).

 

Qualifications you need to enter an NYC apartment lottery

To qualify, and win an NYC apartment lottery, you will need to meet the following qualifications.

 

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • Earn less than $30,100 as an individual
  • Or $42,950 as a family of four
  • Other requirements that a developer may require (such as a background check)

 

How to apply for a New York City apartment lottery

If you meet the requirements, it’s time to start applying. Here’s how to go about it.

 

  1. Start researching potential buildings. You can start online (try NYC Housing Connect) or just take a walk around your target neighborhood. Developers are required to post application information at any building with a lottery program. They’re also required to advertise in at least three publications, so check the newspaper. If you need help, visit your local library for assistance and more information.
  2. Fill out those applications. This is a time-consuming process, there’s no doubt about that. Because you should apply to as many lotteries as you can (just like buying more Mega Millions tickets will give you better odds at winning a prize), you’re going to be buried under a small mountain of paperwork. The good news is that it’s free to submit applications (the only fee you might incur is a credit check fee, but this is further down the line in the process).
  3. Wait patiently. Most developers don’t start looking at applications until a few weeks after the lottery deadline. The review process is random (applications aren’t reviewed in the order they were received). Those that don’t qualify are discarded while those that do are logged and filed. If your application makes the cut, you’ll receive a call for an interview.
  4. Nail the interview. If you’re lucky enough to make it to the interview stage, you’ve already made it further than most. Treat this as a job interview. Dress up, show up early, and be prepared. You’ll need to bring quite a bit of paper work with you, like tax returns, pay stubs, and proper identification. At this point, a credit check might be administered as well. If your credit isn’t up to par, start working on it now.
  5. Hold your breath. You’ve done everything you can do. Now you have to wait and see what the outcome of your efforts will be. If your interview went well, someone might be sent to conduct a home check. This is usually painless and simply conducted to confirm your current living situation. It can take several months for final decisions to be made but if you’re lucky, you’ll have taken a substantial step towards getting a place in New York City.

 

You won! Now what?

Congrats! It’s time for your celebratory dance (we’ll wait). Now, here’s what you need to focus on after winning a New York City apartment lottery.

 

  • Sign the lease. But only after you read the fine print, ask questions, and make sure you’re completely comfortable before signing.
  • Purchase renters insurance. As a renter, you’ll want to make sure that your items are always protected. Remember that the building’s insurance policy will not cover your items in the event of a fire or a burglary.
  • Start packing. Schedule movers if you need them and be as organized as possible. If you’re handling the move alone, check out this blog on moving in NYC.
  • Schedule utility services. This includes television services and internet. Make sure everything is in your name, including electricity and other applicable services.
  • Update your address. Change your address with your work, bank, credit cards, and any other company you regularly receive mail from. You’ll also want to change your address with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Move in and be awesome. As a winner of an apartment lottery, you’ll have to submit yearly paperwork as required by the developer. But otherwise, you’re good to go!

 

Smart tips

 

  • If you can, apply to lotteries in your neighborhood. Developers tend to prefer locals.
  • Keep an eye out for updates. Despite the technological era we live in, email is not used to notify participants of accepted applications. Check your mail regularly.
  • Get prepared as soon as possible. This means polishing up your credit score (if needed) and gathering important paperwork. If you’re not sure if you need a certain document, get it anyway.
  • Keep your cool. There’s no secret formula to winning the NYC apartment lottery. It’s a tiring and frustrating experience to say the least. Remain persistent and optimistic.
  • Know your rights. If you’ve been denied for a lottery but know that you meet the qualifications, don’t be afraid to appeal.

 

If you’re looking for a place in New York City, we hope you consider trying your luck with an apartment lottery. Now’s a great time to start working on that first application. After all, while you might not win the NY apartment lottery tonight, we can guarantee you’ll never win if you don’t at least try.

 

Renovating Your New York City Co-Op? Put Down the Hammer and Read This First

Whether you just bought into your first co-op or you’ve been living in one for years, renovations are sometimes a must. But living in a co-op building comes with a list of rules and guidelines that could put a damper on your dream kitchen.

So, before you grab a hammer or call a contractor, make sure that renovating your New York city co-op is okay with your building’s board. Here’s what you need to know.

Can I renovate my NYC co-op?

The first step to answering this question lies in your proprietary lease. Read it carefully and you’ll be sure to find a few guidelines to help. While each building will have unique policies, here are some general alternation guidelines regarding co-op association renovation approval.

Gutted room with pile of debris, part of renovating your co-op apartment

Approval needed

  • Removing or adding walls – Any change to the layout of your unit will require approval. Even if the removal of the wall between your kitchen and living space seems simple, speak with your board before starting.
  • Electrical or plumbing updates – If it involves wires or pipes, your project most likely needs approval. The more hidden under the floor, in the ceiling, or within the walls, the harder it will be to gain approval.
  • Full updates – If you’re completely updating your kitchen or bath, expect to go through a lengthy approval process. You’ll need to provide every detail to the board. You’ll also probably face a deadline that could leave you paying daily fines if your contractor misses it.

 

No approval needed

  • Painting – Go ahead and pick out your paint colors but still speak to your building’s manager before you open a can. While this normally doesn’t need approval, it’s best to double check.
  • Small cosmetic changes – Switching out faucets or showerheads normally doesn’t need approval. But if your building is LEED certified, make sure the new fixtures meet the standard requirements.
  • Adding art – Many co-op owners assume adding wall art to their unit is a simple change, but make sure to ask before you put holes in the walls of your unit.

 

How to get approval

You don’t have to jump through too many hoops for a co-op association renovation approval, but it could take some time. First, contact your co-op’s managing agent. You don’t need to head to the board just yet. They should be able to provide you with your building’s alteration agreement if you don’t have a current one, as they’re typically updated annually.

 

Once you have your building’s list of renovations that require approval, see where yours falls. If yours requires approval, write a formal letter to the board outlining your proposed work.

 

Inquire if consent is required and if there are any details you need to provide. Most buildings require contractors be licensed and insured. They might also have guidelines regarding the time of year renovations can be made and if there are any associated fees with your project.

 

If the board needs more information, provide it as quickly as possible. If you’re following your building’s alteration agreement factors, your project should be approved.

Spackling the walls as a part of renovating your co-op apartment

But if it’s not, you might have to put that dream kitchen on hold until either the rules change or you’re able to meet the board’s demands.

 

Renovation tips

There are a few things you can do to make renovating your New York City co-op a bit easier.

 

Speak about renovations before buying your co-op

If you’re looking at a co-op that will need some updating, submit renovation planes with your sales application if the board allows.

 

Elaine from Halstead says, “Before purchasing a unit in a co-op, make sure you know exactly what the building policies are regarding renovations. Renovation policies for every co-op building varies and the red-tape involved can be a bit unreasonable.”

 

Seek approval before doing anything

This can’t be stressed enough. Even if you believe you don’t need approval for a quick renovation, taking the few minutes to speak with the building manager can save you a lot of headaches.

 

But if you know you’ll need board approval for a more expansive project, seek a contractor first who can help you provide proper documentation and plans to the board for approval.

 

Find the right contractor

Think you can get by without a contractor? “After being in real estate sales for 11 years, I’ve never seen a DIY project that was executed well,” says Elaine. “Always hire a professional. Always!”

 

Don’t hire the first contractor that comes your way though. Ask for reviews, referrals, and several quotes before deciding.

 

Have a plan and a backup plan

If there’s one guarantee in renovation, it’s that something will go wrong. Whether it’s minor or major is up in the air. That’s why it helps to have a planned-out design with a few backup plans as well. Have less expensive options if your budget gets out or control or have lodging set up elsewhere in case you miss the deadline and you’re without a bathroom or kitchen for several days.

 

Increase the value of your co-op without expensive renovations

Whether your project has been denied or you just want a few ideas to spruce your place up, here are some inexpensive and minimal ways to improve your co-op today.

 

  • Rugs – If your carpets make you wonder what type of science experiments are going on beneath their surface, investing in rugs in an inexpensive yet effective way to renovate your space. Play with patterns and textures for a unique look.

 

  • Command strips – Some co-ops won’t allow you to put any holes in the walls, including nails and thumb tacks. But don’t let this hold you back from decorating. Use Command strips, which enable you to place hooks on the walls without using a hammer. When you’re ready to remove the hook, all you have to do is pull the adhesive out from the plastic frame, revealing the clean and undamaged wall behind it.

 

  • Crown molding – Crown molding is an effortless way to add charm and character to your NYC co-op. It’s a quick and affordable project that can transform your co-op and provide a great return.

 

  • Floors – A floor renovation can get expensive but if you’re only replacing bathroom or kitchen tile, you should be able to keep your budget on track. New floors can update even the oldest units in just a few days.

 

Renovations to avoid

There are a few things you shouldn’t do when renovating your New York City co-op, even if a project is approved. When thinking of your return on your investment, James, a Yoreevo real estate agent, says that some renovations are just for your happiness and not your equity.

 

“Speaking from experience, windows. I didn’t even think about them when I bought and my first winter, there were drafts all over on top of paper thin glass (street noise came right through). I replaced them, but it cost me almost $20,000. It’s been worth it for me because I’ve enjoyed them for four years and counting but there’s no way anyone will care about them when I sell.”

 

You should also consider your future goals. How long do you see yourself living in your co-op for?

 

“I would caution that an owner should only take-on an extensive renovation if they plan to own the apartment for more than 5 years,” says Elaine. “If only minor cosmetic touches are needed, then it’s worth doing the touch-ups! These small improvements make a significant impact on the overall value of your apartment. Renovating an apartment is a smart way to put equity back into one of the most important investments of your life.”

 

If you’re ever uncertain about whether a renovation requires board approval, it’s always best to clarify with the board. The last thing you want is to be halfway through a project only to have it halted.

 

The board isn’t out to stop you from getting your dream kitchen. It’s in their best interests that as many units as possible are upgraded and functional. But if you want to play by the rules, speak to your board about your next project before getting started.

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5 Ideas Your Co-Op Can Use to Become LEED Certified (Plus Step-By-Step Application Instructions)

What could your co-op building have in common with the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building? If you’re thinking of renovating your New York City co-op to become more environmentally conscious, it could become LEED certified, just as these famous skyline icons are.

 

If the title “LEED certified” doesn’t ring a bell, don’t fret. We’re here to explain the certification and outline the steps you’ll need to take to get the process rolling.

 

What is LEED Certification?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s a certification program monitored by the U.S. Green Building Council. Originally developed for commercial buildings, now residential buildings and stand-alone homes can earn the honor.

LEED Certificate

By going green, your co-op building can transform the way you think about how buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained, and operated. By reducing your environmental footprint, you’ll experience benefits that go beyond your four walls. A LEED certification can be an expensive endeavor but, if you can do it, you’ll not only save you money but boost your bottom line.

 

There are several LEED categories in which you can earn points in. The number of points vary depending on the difficulty of the task. For example, improving interior lighting (part of the Indoor Air Quality category) can earn you up to 2 points while reducing indoor water use can earn your co-op unit up to 6 points. As you can guess, some of the fastest ways to earn points involve energy. Optimizing energy performance can earn you up to a whopping 18 points.

 

  • Sustainable Sites – Think about the ecosystem that surrounds your building. By not disturbing it and encouraging it to thrive, you can earn points in this category.
  • Water Efficiency – Keeping water waste to a minimum isn’t just about shutting the faucet off while you brush your teeth. Consider low-flow water features and save rain water for garden spaces.
  • Energy and Atmosphere – To earn points in this category, you’ll need to take an innovative approach to energy. Research energy-efficient design strategies and consider renewable energy sources.
  • Materials and Resources – Make sure that safe materials are used within the building. Replace those that have been identified as hazardous to human health and the environment with safe, long-lasting materials per co-op association renovation approval guidelines.
  • Indoor Air Quality – Improve the inner ambiance of your co-op building by improving indoor air quality, lighting quality, and acoustic design. Make every inch of your building a pleasant place to be.

 

There are different levels of certification to shoot for. While it doesn’t take much to become certified, there are perks for achieving the higher levels.

 

  • Certified 40-49 points
  • Silver 50-59 points
  • Gold 60-79 points
  • Platinum 80-110 points

 

Benefits of Becoming LEED Certified

If you and your co-op unit can work together and earn points, or credits, towards your LEED certification, you’ll enjoy a wide array of benefits. But is all the work towards going green worth it? Explore the benefits of earning your certification.

 

 

  • Health

 

Your health can improve with greener living. You’ll be doing your part to keep the air clean and proper ventilation systems do a better job at flushing out contaminated air and replacing it with fresh air when inside. You’ll also be exposed to less toxins through cleaning products and be living in a more health-conscious environment.

 

 

  • Financial

 

You’ll be saving money by spending less on utilities and as a whole, buildings that are LEED certified are able to charge more in rent. On average, occupancy rates rise 1% while rent grows by 19.2%.

 

 

  • Value

 

As a member of a co-op, you own shares of your building. One of the best benefits of being LEED certified is that the value of the building (and your ROI) should expand. An existing building that earned LEED certification can expect a building value increase of nearly 7%.

 

First Steps to Renovating Your New York City Co-op

Taking your co-op to the green side is easier than you think. While there’s a time and financial commitment, the individual steps themselves aren’t difficult.

 

The first step is to introduce the idea to the co-op board of your building. If you’re not a member of your board, schedule a time to meet with them and come prepared. Present the idea of LEED certification along with its benefits. Be ready to answer questions, refer them to proper resources, and make suggestions as to how to go about gaining certification.

 

For most existing buildings, the process of becoming LEED certified takes a couple of years. The exact time it takes for your co-op will vary based on your initial score and how quickly you’re able to make changes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

 

 

  • Install low-flow water fixtures

 

Switch out toilets, shower heads, and sink faucets for low-flow options. Also remind tenants to conserve water and avoid waste.

 

 

  • Use green cleaning products

 

This includes by individual tenants and throughout common spaces. If your building utilizes a cleaning service, see if they offer green cleaning packages. Should you have to treat a pest problem, look for green options.

 

 

  • Standardize waste management practices

 

If your co-op unit doesn’t already, come up with guidelines for waste disposal. Recycle responsibly and minimize waste. Encourage the use of reusable grocery bags. Suggest that tenants buy reusable razors instead of disposable and skip the paper plates and towels.

 

 

  • LED and lighting control

 

This is one of the easiest places to start. Switch out old lightbulbs for energy-saving LED versions. While you don’t want to keep your lobby in the dark, look for lighting options with built-in motion detectors in less traveled areas of the building.

 

 

  • Update the roof

 

What’s the current color of your roof? If it’s black, it could be taxing your HVAC system and absorbing abundant energy. While you can look into solar panels if your budget allows, you can also focus on a quicker fix. Paint the roof white or a lighter shade to reflect light and keep the building naturally cooler.

 

Need a little help transforming your co-op into a green space? Visit www.greenhomenyc.org, a volunteer-run organization that helps New York residents go green. Before you start tearing walls down though, make sure you stay within the guidelines of your co-op association renovation approval.

 

LEED Checklist

Are you ready to go green? Here’s how to get your certification.

 

  1. Register your building. Complete required forms and submit the application payment.
  2. Schedule your initial exam and wait for your score.
  3. Based on your score, come up with a plan to either reach certification or gain a higher ranking.
  4. Roll up your sleeves and get to work making sustainable upgrades to your co-op.
  5. Apply for LEED certification. Submit the completed application along with the review fee.
  6. Cross your fingers and wait patiently while your application is reviewed.
  7. Learn your fate. If you’ve been approved, you’ll earn your LEED certification. Congratulations!

 

If you don’t gain your certification on the first try or wish to achieve a higher ranking, you can continue making improvements until you meet your goal. Achieving LEED certification takes dedication and hard work. The good news is that it’s well worth the effort. New York City is one of the greenest cities in the country. Use this as motivation to earn the certification for your co-op. Not only can it be done, but it’s done more in NYC than much of the country.

 

To summarize, a LEED certified building is more environmentally responsible. Your building will be more profitable, and its residents will be healthier. By using less energy, water, and resources, the lower impact on the environment will provide everyone in your co-op with empowerment and pride.

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Co-op Tenant Rights – Are Yours Being Infringed?

You worked hard to buy your co-op. You’ve agreed to their rules. But does this mean you don’t have any co-op tenant rights?

 

We strongly disagree.

 

There are plenty of NYC laws and guidelines that protect you as a tenant. But this doesn’t mean you won’t run into problems now and again. Learn your rights and what you can do when you think they’re not being honored.

 

What determines your rights?

The rules of your co-op are derived by three types of legalities. First is your proprietary lease, followed by the by-laws of the building. Finally, local, state, and federal laws protect you from illegal leases or by-laws. Together, these three legal arenas balance each other out and create a fair living experience for you and everyone else in your building.

 

Proprietary Lease

Your proprietary lease is provided to you when you buy your co-op. It establishes the terms in which you abide by in your building, including maintenance fees, pet allowances, and other terms that differ from building to building.

 

By-laws

The co-op’s by-laws outline the relationship between the board and unit owners. This defines the board’s powers and responsibilities, including who can serve on the board, how members are elected, and how owners can request information.

 

State and local laws

Finally, local laws, including state and federal, are the final say in co-op living laws. If either a proprietary lease or by-law contradicts a state or federal law, it is not legally binding.

 

Common questions regarding co-op tenant rights

We’ve put together a short list of some of the most common questions regarding co-op tenant rights. Explore them to see if your building is infringing on your tenant rights.

co-op board meeting in room having a discusion

Am I responsible for all building and unit maintenance?

The co-op itself is responsible for maintaining sidewalks, equipment, and essentially the apartments. But here’s where it gets a bit fuzzy. As a shareholder, you’re responsible for the interior of your unit. This includes the walls, ceilings, windows, floors, frames, and so on.

You are also responsible for any painting and decorating along with maintaining, repairing, and replacing plumbing, gas and heating fixtures, refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, washing machines, dryers, stoves, and any other appliances.

 

However, the co-op building is responsible for any gas, steam, water, or other pipes within the walls, ceilings, or floors.

 

Are there temperature regulations the building is required to abide by?

Is it freezing in common places during the winter and boiling during the summer? Unfortunately, there are no laws that require your co-op to install air conditioning or use an existing unit in communal areas.

 

The rules change when it comes to heat though. Co-op units are protected by the warranty of habitability, which guarantees the right to a livable, safe, and sanitary apartment. This warranty also covers communal areas. Therefore, shared areas should be adequately heated when necessary.

 

Can a neighbor be evicted?

One false pretense that co-op unit owners are under is that they cannot be evicted from their units (or cannot evict unruly neighbors). But the process is possible. Someone can’t be evicted simply because the co-op board “doesn’t like them” but if they are disruptive, unable to abide by the building’s rules, or are breaking federal laws, an eviction process can move forward.

 

If your situation has been exhausted and you’d like to explore having an unruly shareholder evicted, there are three things you’ll need. First is precedent. You’ll need reasoning for the eviction, and not just personal disagreements. If they’re putting the building at risk with a bed bug infestation or their excessive cigarette smoking indoors has led to several small fires, there are grounds to pursue eviction. Any incidents will need to be backed up by documentation, such as staff logs, security footage, witnesses, etc. You should officially document any wrongdoing in the building so that if it does come to eviction, you have the paperwork needed.

 

Finally, you may need to fall back on the Business Judgement Rule which insures that the board does not have to answer to misleading allegations about the way it conducts its’ business if it is not apparent that they, the board of directors, has violated a major rule of conduct. In other words, if an unruly shareholder claims the board has singled them out, their argument will be thrown out if the board has a clean slate.

 

Can I have pets?

This will depend on your individual co-op rules. If you do find yourself in a pet-friendly building, be prepared for your furry friend to have strict guidelines themselves. Excessive barking will be prohibited, and you’ll most likely have to have your dog on a leash at all times.

 

As a responsible pet owner, you should confirm your renters insurance policy when it comes to dog bites. Most provide coverage for injuries caused by dogs, but some companies have an exclusion list of certain breeds. Before you put yourself at risk, confirm that your dog is covered, especially before bringing them into an unfamiliar environment.

 

Cats are usually allowed in pet-friendly buildings. When it comes to smaller or less common pets, speak with the co-op board if your lease isn’t specific.

 

How can I protect my investment?

Despite not owning the unit you live in, buying into a co-op building is still a financial investment. That’s why you’ll want to look for a co-op unit that you believe you can profit from when selling. But even if you believe you’ve found a diamond in the rough, there are a few situations that can throw you off course.

 

For example, if you live in a corner unit with plenty of windows or a top floor unit with a killer view, your co-op likely has development rights. This means they can add on to the building, whether it be an addition or additional floors.

 

If you’re concerned or just simply annoyed with construction that does take place, you might be able to take legal action based on what’s outlined in your proprietary lease. You can claim provisions were violated if your lease is laid out in such a way (for example, a “quiet enjoyment” provision can be claimed as violated during loud construction.) This isn’t a guarantee that you can prevent construction that could lower the value of your unit though.

 

Can my co-op board require renters insurance?

They can, and this is a blessing in disguise. If you were thinking of forgoing renters insurance, you would have been putting yourself at risk for a financial disaster. Renters insurance covers your individual property in the event of fire, theft, and other circumstances.

 

For example, if you let your bathtub overflow and the water leaks into the apartment below, you’re legally responsible for the damage caused to your unit and the unit below you. Renters insurance covers this.

 

Can I have a roommate?

Like so many things, the answer to this all comes down to money. Under what’s commonly referred to in NYC as the “Roommate Law”, you are allowed as a co-op owner one additional occupant in addition to immediate family, as long as you are currently living in the unit at the same time.

 

Where it gets tricky though is if you’re charging this roommate rent (which you most likely are). If a friend is moving in with you temporarily while they get back on their feet, you are only required to inform the board within 30 days of them moving in.

 

But if you are charging rent, this could be considered a sublet situation, which is typically not allowed in co-ops. So, the answer will depend on your board. If you’re not profiting from the roommate’s share of the rent, they may allow it. But you might have to fill out paperwork and ask for consent, which can be denied.

 

Can I make renovations to my unit?

Any renovation work, no matter how minor, requires approval by a co-op board. You will most likely need to sign an alteration agreement and inform the board of every detail of your renovation plan. There may be a fee involved and any worker you hire will need to provide proof of insurance.

 

At the end of the day, your co-op can refuse approval for renovations and leave you with a unit you’re not happy with. So before buying, always discuss potential renovations in advance.

 

Just because you live in a co-op doesn’t mean you’re not deserving of tenant rights. While the legal guidelines can get a bit blurry from time to time, the right (and legal) answer is out there. Knowing your rights will ensure they’re never infringed upon.

 

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Guide to Buying Your First Co-Op Unit

You’ve been thinking about it for a while and you’ve finally decided it’s now or never. You’re going to buy your first co-op unit. You tell your family and friends, start collecting boxes for the move, and hope someone throws you a housewarming party. But here’s the problem.

 

You have no idea where to start.

 

That’s okay! We’ve put together this easy to follow guide that will have you moving into your first co-op in no time.

 

What is a co-op?

If you’ve been shacking up with a roommate in their apartment or have only called your parents’ house home, you might be confused on what a co-op actually is. A co-op building is a unique living situation in which buyers purchase stock shares that enable them to occupy a unit within.

 

If you go the condo route, you’ll own your actual unit, similar to buying a stand-alone house. But when it comes to co-op units, you’re not buying the floors, walls, and space between. You’re buying into the corporation.

 

Benefits of owning a co-op

Tom Baron, a licensed NYC real estate agent, spoke with us about the co-op buying process.

 

“The first step when looking to purchase a co-op is to understand whether a co-op is the right fit for your needs. A co-op will require more patience on your end as you are part of a community of shareholders and every decision made by them may affect you directly. Things like making changes in the apartment, like renovating, or subleasing your property will be things the co-op board will determine for you and for some people that is something they are not comfortable with.”

 

But if you’ve done your research and feel that a co-op is the best choice for you, you’ll be thrilled with the unique benefits this type of housing provides.

 

Lower cost

The first main benefit of buying a co-op is that they’re more budget friendly compared to condos. You’ll find that on average, a condo will cost over 60% more than a co-op similar in size, layout, and location. You’ll also pay less at closing when buying a co-op.

 

Plenty of options

Some parts of NYC consist of 75% co-op units and 25% condos when it comes to housing. Therefore, you’ll have a healthy number of options when it comes to finding a co-op. Just remember that they go quickly so you’ll have to act fast if you find one you’re interested in.

 

Great neighbors

Co-ops are known for their rigorous vetting processes. But this can be a benefit after you’ve moved in. You’ll find comfort in the fact that your neighbors will also have to agree to the same rules and conditions you did. You’ll enjoy a healthier and happier community.

 

Steps to buying a co-op

Buying a co-op does take persistence and patience. Tom says, “The process of buying a co-op can be complicated. It is long and frustrating especially when you need to work with the co-op timelines.”

 

But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here’s how to find your dream co-op.

 

  1. Assemble a team, including a mortgage broker, lawyer, and real estate agent. Hiring professionals will ensure you get the best deal and have your fair share of units to choose from. Not all co-op units are listed in the newspapers or on websites. A good agent will be able to show you “hidden” units.
  2. Obtain a pre-approval letter. You’ll want to move quickly if you find a unit you’re interested in and you can’t move forward without it.
  3. Start your search. Narrow down your options by neighborhood, price, features, and square footage.
  4. Make sure you qualify before submitting an application for a unit you’re interested in. According to Tom, most co-ops in New York City require a minimum of 20% down when financing and a debt to income ratio of 28% or less. You’ll also need to have two years of maintenance and mortgage payments in liquid assets after closing.
  5. Prepare for the board if your application is accepted. Begin the title search and mortgage application process. Submit your board package, which your real estate agent should help you with.

 

Tom says this is a key step. “A co-op board package will require a lot of documents, including all of your financial information in the past two years (bank and brokerage statements, tax returns, etc.), reference letters, income verification, multiple documents to sign and more. It also needs to be done right by a professional, otherwise it is likely to be returned to the buyer to revise.”

 

  1. Interview with the board. This is stressful but if you come prepared, meet the board’s requirements, and agree with the bylaws, you should be good to go. But be patient. According to Tom, it takes an average of 30 days for a board to approve a candidate.
  2. Conduct a final walk through, checking everything from the appliances to the electrical outlets. Bring up any issues immediately.
  3. Attend the closing. You’ll meet with the seller, buyer, all attorneys involved, the co-op, your lender, and all involved real estate agents. After a few hours of paperwork and finances, you’ll officially be a co-op owner.

 

Buying a co-op will test your patience and maybe even your sanity. If you’ve been trying to buy your first co-op in NYC for quite some time but with no luck, don’t give up yet.

 

“Look at it as a one time process and [try] not to focus on the hurdles you may come up with when applying to one,” suggests Tom.  “At the end of the day this will be your home for many years and if the apartment is a good fit and the building is one you are comfortable with, focus on the goal of becoming the owner of that property and not on the lengthy tiring 3 month process it will take to get there.”

 

If you know a co-op is the best option for you, your efforts will be well worth it. Don’t forget, you’ll want to secure renters insurance before you move into your new space. Let us know how your co-op search goes – we wish you the best of luck!

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