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Can co-op boards keep out registered sex offenders?

What recourse does a New York co-op board have if a registered sex offender moves into the building with an occupant who has already been approved and is living there? That was a question posed recently in a real estate column in The New York Times.

According to one New York attorney, the board can't force the person who owns the apartment to sell it if there are no restrictions on having roommates or on allowing registered sex offenders to live in the building. Of course, shareholders can meet to consider enacting a rule to bar sex offenders. Generally, these measures need to be approved by at least two-thirds of shareholders.

Board members can and should seek out more information on the nature of the person's offense. A wide range of crimes can get people on state and federal registries — everything from soliciting a prostitute and public urination to violent crimes like rape. Registries provide information on the specific crime(s) committed by registered offenders.

There are residency restrictions under state and local New York laws for some sex offenders. For example, if the victim was under 18, an offender can't be within 1,000 feet of a daycare center or school. Level 3 sex offenders, which are considered most likely to re-offend, also face restrictions.

State law says that Level 3 sex offenders, as well as Level 1 and 2 sex offenders whose victims were under the age of 18, cannot enter school grounds or be within 1,000 feet of schools or daycare centers. Level 3 sex offenders are considered to be at the highest risk of re-offending. One New York state senator is trying to pass legislation that would restrict how closely both Level 2 and 3 offenders can live to their victims.

It's important to remember that only 5 percent of sex crimes are committed by registered sex offenders. However, the best course of action for co-op boards that are facing this issue — or want to prevent it in the future — is to consult with their attorneys to determine their best options in order to protect the safety of their residents and avoid liability.

Source: The New York Times, "A Sex Offender in the Building," Ronda Kaysen, Sep. 24, 2016

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