Helpful articles to aid Management Companies, Board Members, and Housing Cooperative Professionals in handling complex legal issues.

Outdoor Fire Pits/Fireplaces, Heaters, Gazebos, Canopies, and Tents, Oh My! What is a Board of Directors to do?

As we enter into the holiday season and the fall/winter surge of COVID-19 cases, we have been coming up with alternative ways to see our friends, family and neighbors. Some suggested ways to get together have included holding small gatherings outside while practicing social distancing and wearing masks. Some of us may even be planning for holiday dinners to be held outside this year with our friends, families and neighbors.


Outdoor Security Cameras

The installation of security cameras is widely considered amongst cooperatives mainly for the security and surveillance of its parking lots. The installation of security cameras has its benefits as well as its detriments, but it does not come without issues for multifamily housing properties. There are legal ramifications that are associated with the installation of outdoor security cameras on cooperative premises.


Share Loans and Recognition Agreements: Best Practices

A Share Loan is a type of financing that allows for an incoming Cooperative member to finance the initial purchase price of a membership and unit, or can be obtained by an existing member for improvements as specified in a Cooperative’s Bylaws. As part of the Share Loan process, a Recognition Agreement is executed by a Cooperative and a lending institution which sets forth the rights and responsibilities of the parties as well details as what happens if the member-borrower defaults on the member-borrower’s Share Loan. Generally, standard Recognition Agreements are overly Lender friendly and do not provide for specific rights that must be afforded to the Cooperative in the event of a default by the member-borrower. It is pertinent that any Recognition Agreement that is presented to a Cooperative from a Lender be specifically tailored to the needs of the Cooperative.


When Does the Coop Step In?

Imagine a scenario when a member is having some challenges, which come with either age or declining mental conditions to the extent they may be a threat to themselves or the community. What does the Cooperative do? Do they have any obligation? What if the member’s family calls demanding you to take action such as turning off their water or their gas for fear the member might not remember to turn it off?


Among those horrifying things cooperative attorneys at our office, hear about are Board members who still do not get it! Did you know that there is such a thing as a “Fair Housing Tester?” Did you also know that these Testers are paid employees and that they are paid to contact your cooperative to see if your Board members and Management Staff are ensuring an equal opportunity to housing for all persons in protected classes? Can you even name all of the protected classes?


Spotting a Strawman and the Distinction Between Guests and Unauthorized Occupants.

Every Housing Cooperative establishes a set of membership application and eligibility criteria. Screening applications, while itself is not an unlawful practice if decisions do not violate the Fair Housing Act for discrimination against one or more protected classes (i.e., race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability) or other relative federal, state and local laws, serves a legitimate purpose. These purposes include insuring that members can meet financial obligations, that members and their immediate family meet occupancy standards for certain sized dwelling units, and passing criminal background checks.


Federal Appeals Court, in Davis v. Echo Valley Condominium Ass’n, et al., Affirms Trial Court’s Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Fair Housing Act Lawsuit Over Claims Stemming from Smoking in Condominium Unit.

On December 19, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an Opinion affirming a Michigan federal District Court’s dismissal of a condominium unit owner’s lawsuit alleging discrimination under the Fair Housing Act against a condominium association for its failure to ban smoking as a reasonable accommodation request. This case carries significance for condominium and other association-based communities in how courts continue to address claims under the Fair Housing Act relating to smoking inside a building or unit and the odors that result. This article goes over the history of the case, the Sixth Circuit Court’s opinion and analysis, as well as some key things that the association did that were noteworthy in the opinion.


Michigan Court of Appeals Rules that Trial Courts Are Not to Abandon Their Role As Gatekeepers of Evidence In Considering the Reliability of Evidence Pertaining to Emotional Support Animal Request.

On September 17, 2020, a Michigan Court of Appeals panel unanimously held, in Riverbrook v. Fabode, that trial courts are “… required to consider reliability of methods employed by counselor as expert, as well as her final opinion in letter that tenant required an ESA because of a disability, before determining whether owner of mobile home park had refused to make a reasonable accommodation as required by the FHA.” Riverbrook v Fabode, No. 349065, 2020 WL 5580152 (Mich. Ct. App., Sept. 17, 2020). In Riverbrook, the trial court erroneously rejected the landlord of a mobile home’s evidentiary challenges to the reliability and methods of collection of the tenant’s medical documentation to support ​his reasonable accommodation request for an Emotional Support Animal (“ESA”). Because of the Court of Appeals ruling in Riverbrook, Housing Cooperatives seeking information from members in reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals, are now permitted to ask for reliable disability-related information. Although these reasonable accommodation requests should be considered on a “case-by-case” basis, Riverbrook provides additional guidance for what information Cooperatives may seek when considering the request.


Confessions Of A Pet Turned ESA

This is my confession of how I became an ESA and not a pet. I can’t reveal my name, but let’s just say I’m a dog who is pretty good at typing. This a true story. (Just trust me on this.)