Alteration Issues Private Projects Need Board Approval

It’s no secret that residents in condos or co-ops can be a fickle bunch, and many times decide to undertake a repair or remodeling project themselves, without going through the proper channels. 

Maybe it’s a new owner who wants to make major changes to his home to make it a better fit; perhaps it’s a long-time resident who buys an adjacent unit and wants to knock down some walls to make one big unit; or an owner could just be sick and tired of his flooring and wants to do something new.

In each of these scenarios, the first step should always be petitioning the board for permission, but often, people get tired of waiting for a response and decide to forge ahead and hire contractors themselves. This can lead to numerous problems.

“The condominium documents will tell you what you can and can’t do; some will even limit the number of bedrooms. If there are loadbearing walls you need to get the permission of the association,” says Charles A. Perkins, Jr., a senior partner with Perkins & Anctil, Attorneys at Law, in Westford, Massachusetts. “Some associations take that even further and say if you’re going to do any work in your unit come to us for permission, present us with what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do that. Also make sure you’ve got a licensed and insured person doing the work.”

Howard L. Zimmerman, AIA, founder and principal of Howard L. Zimmerman Architects, P.C., says each building should have a proper building alteration agreement in place. “The board lays out what has to be filed; what the contractor qualifications are; what the hours of working are; and whether to file with municipality or not,” he says. “There should be house rules regarding the hours worked and whether weekends are included. What time of night? Whether you can cut through walls and what protections are offered.”

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