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Can co-op boards keep residents from hiring staff for odd jobs?

Many residents of New York City co-ops pay building maintenance workers and porters to do odd jobs in their individual apartments -- anything from changing a light bulb to putting together furniture. They know these individuals and often find it easier, less expensive and safer to ask them for help rather than call a handyman service or other professional. They may also feel like they're helping these folks out with a little extra money.

Some co-op boards don't have a problem with this. They consider letting their building staff do individual work for residents "an amenity that actually enhances the value of the apartments and fosters good relations between the shareholders and building staff," as one New York real estate attorney noted.

Other co-op boards, on the other hand, have rules against it. There are a number of reasons for that. The supervisor has to be attentive to ensuring that the employee clocks out of his or her regular job before starting work in an individual apartment. There's always the chance of "double-dipping," where the worker is still on the clock, but also getting paid by a tenant.

A larger problem, of course, involves liability issues. Even if the employee is on his or her own time doing work for a resident, if that employee is injured, the building could be held liable for those injuries. Further, if the employee doesn't do the job properly or causes damage in the home, there could also be liability issues.

Finally, if residents are allowed to hire staff, they may feel obligated to accept the request, even if they don't want to or don't have the time. Refusing could hurt that all-important holiday tip, not to mention result in negative feelings. Having a regulation against such work gets them off the hook.

The bottom line is that the co-op board has the right to implement and enforce such a rule. If there are considerable complaints, they may be able to alleviate them by providing a list of recommended service providers. If your shareholders still aren't happy with your regulation, the attorney for your property might be able to help you explain the legal reasons behind the decision.

Source: New York Times, "Can You Hire the Super for Odd Jobs?," Ronda Kaysen, Oct. 29, 2016

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