With the warmer weather upon us, some cooperatives may consider permitting its members to install awnings on their back patios. Cooperative boards must be mindful that the installation of awnings does come with drawbacks that must be resolved prior any member installing an awning. If a board was desirous to permit its members to install awnings, then the board should contact its cooperative attorney to draft an awning installation policy as well as an installation/alteration form to help mitigate the drawbacks.
Awning Installation Policy
The awning installation policy ought to cover the following aspects:
However, the cooperative must be aware of the drawbacks that are associated with members being permitted to install awnings onto rear exteriors of dwelling units. The drawbacks are as follows:(1) Exterior Condition of the Dwelling Unit
— The cooperative, either with the assistance of its management agent, prospective contractor or general inspector should inspect all exterior dwelling units to be sure that the exterior of the dwelling units can withstand the weight of the awning. The most vital factor here is that the cooperative must make sure that the installation of the awning does not impair the structural integrity of a structure, lessen the support of any portion of the cooperative, or impair the soundness, safety, utility or appearance of the cooperative The cooperative does not want to face issues with deteriorating exterior structures down the line if the exterior structure was not strong enough to hold the awning. Additionally, the cooperative must be assured by the prospective awning contractor that every awning will be secured to the exterior with the appropriate construction materials and that the awnings will not interfere with existing electrical power, gutters, rain guards, downspouts, roofs, gas, irrigation systems, sewer, water, telephone or television cable lines.(2) Electrical Work
— The cooperative should have the prospective awning contractor or general inspector inspect all electrical work that is currently affixed to the exterior of all dwelling units. This must be done to make sure that current electrical work will not have to be redirected to allow for the installation of the awning and to be sure that the current electrical work can sustain the complexity of the awning system as retractable awnings must be hard-wired into the electrical system, if the cooperative chooses a retractable awning. If there is electrical work required, the cooperative must be assured that the prospective contractor will arrange for an electrician, who is licensed and insured, to be onsite as the awning is installed, which would be an additional cost to the member if there is additional electrical work to hardwire the awning or if there needs to be an additional electrical box installed. All members must be made aware that there may be additional electrical costs outside of the cost for the awning and installation and that they are solely responsible for this cost.(3) Insurance
—The cooperative must require that all members who are approved for the installation of an awning to acquire insurance for the awning since the exterior of the dwelling unit is being altered at the request of the member. It would also be wise for the cooperative to contact its insurance company to inquire whether the cooperative should also increase its insurance policy in relation to the exterior of all dwelling units. The member shall be solely responsible for insuring the modified common elements both as to casualty and general liability. The member shall provide evidence of such coverages to the cooperative upon request. A major drawback to allowing the installation of awnings is the fact that the awning could cause damage to the exterior structure of the dwelling unit or other dwelling units if the awning is installed improperly, if the contractor causes damage to the dwelling unit, if there is inclement weather and the awning is extracted from its hardware, or if the exterior structure cannot withstand the weight of the awning and causes damage to the structure internally and/or externally. The cooperative must be aware of the potential issues that accompany the installation of awnings, and the cooperative must protect itself by requiring that each member insure the installation of all awnings as they are altering the exterior of a common element.(4) Selection of Awning Contractor(s)
—The board will have to decide if they want to select one or more contractors to perform the installation of the awning. The board will have to meet with individual contractors at a board meeting and listen to their proposals for installing the awnings. The board must request that every contractor is to provide evidence that they are licensed and fully insured as well as provide a certificate of insurance for Worker’s Compensation and liability before work is commenced.(5) Selection of Awning Specifications
—The board must decide whether the awnings will be fixed or retractable. If fixed, the board will have to understand from the contractor how the awning will be affixed to the exterior, and if the awning is retractable, then the contractor will have to explain how it will be wired into the electrical system of that unit or if an electrical box will have to be included. The Board will have to decide on specific aesthetic criteria so that all awnings are the same color and type so that there is uniformity within the cooperative with respect to the awnings.(6) Price of Awning and Collecting Payment
—The board must notify the members beforehand so that they are on notice that they are responsible for the entire cost of the installation of an awning, including any costs such as pulling permits, damage, liability, claims, actions or judgments pertaining to, or resulting from the work performed. Additionally, the board must present to the members how much the awnings will cost. The board should negotiate with the contractor so that the contractor is to collect the entire balance due for the cost of the awning. Limiting the cooperative’s role in this regard takes the burden off of the cooperative to collect payment and keeps the cooperative as a third party to the installation of the awning.
In sum, the cooperative must make sure that the installation of the awning does not impair the structural integrity of a structure, lessen the support of any portion of the cooperative, or impair the soundness, safety, utility or appearance of the cooperative. The cooperative board who is desirous to permit its members to install awnings will have many items to consider prior to permitting its members to install awnings. However, with the help of an experienced cooperative attorney, the drawbacks associated with the installation of awnings can be resolved with a properly drafted awning installation policy and an extremely detailed alteration/installation form that protects the cooperative.