Condos vs Co-ops: House Rules and Bylaws
Nov 12, 2023
Co-op or condo buyers or tenants in New York City should be aware there are a particular set
of policies. The governing policies are called house rules. The house rules govern day to day normal behavior throughout the building. After all, many people, often with entirely different backgrounds, are living vertically in tight quarters in New York City. Rules are a necessary ingredient to ensure harmony amongst neighbors.
House Rules are less formal than bylaws which concern technical matters such as the number
of board members, how often elections occur and how they are governed, and the frequency
of meetings. However, house rules, which cover a wide array of areas, are essential to know and
understand before signing the sales contract.
Where to find the Condo or Co-op House Rules
Ask the listing agent where to find the condo or coop house rules. Ideally, it is in one place,
although it does not have to be the case. It might be in the bylaws or listed in a separate
A more extensive set of rules for co-ops might be found in the proprietary lease which gives
the shareholder the right to live in his/her apartment. Rules for condo apartment this could be
in the governing document, declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R).
The first area to be aware of concerns areas that everyone uses. Common; areas include
elevators; hallways, and stairways. Most of the rules should follow common sense on how to
use these areas, such as those concerning noise or clutter. You should pay attention to the
provisions of the building gym if there is one.
There are likely to be specific rules on how you can conduct yourself, even inside your
apartment. A significant area concerns noise levels that affect your neighbors. A typical
provision relates to activity late at night. If you are a drum player; you may have to play before
10 p.m. You may be required to carpet a certain percentage; such as 80%; of your floor space
to minimize noise.
House rules may govern which appliances you can have in your apartment. You may be
forbidden, from having a washing machine, or window air conditioners, for instance. If this
seems excessive, remember, the co-op board is trying to protect the common good, including
the building itself.
A house rule may forbid subletting or in the case of a condo require a lease of 12 months
minimum. If you were planning on earning extra income by renting your unit, you should
know this ahead of time.
One contentious area concerns pets. Some boards forbid all animals, while others may allow
cats but not dogs. When dogs are allowed, some buildings have weight restrictions. If you
have a pet, make sure to understand if it is permitted beforehand since an exception to the
rule is not likely to be made.
Implementation and Changes
When a co-op or condo, is formed, the board decides on the house rules. It is not unusual for
the sponsor’s lawyer to make general rules. Over time; these are typically changed to
accommodate everyday living, especially since ownership changes over time. A house rule can be modified or implemented with the majority of the board that is present
— called a quorum.
Hopefully, if there is an issue with a neighbor, it is dealt with courteously and quickly. The
board can impose a fine if it is authorized; for specific violations. These situations must be
spelled out in the propriety lease ahead of time, which is unusual.
The board for a co-op can ask you to leave under terms of a propriety lease. Particularly if
there have been repeated violations, despite warnings — a final solution. For a co-op; the
proprietary lease allows the board to decide when to choose to enforce a breach of a house
rule, under a business judgment rule. May not seem fair, mainly if you are having a problem
with a neighbor, but you should be aware that, most times, you cannot do anything about it.
Co-op versus Condo
Co-op house rules are stricter than those of a condo. Co-op’s board wields more power over
its shareholder than a condo apartment over its unit owners. However, it does not have to be
this way, so make sure to read a condo’s house rules before you put in a bid.
What it Cannot Cover
The house rules cannot be used to discriminate against groups of people. The Fair Housing
Act protects people from discrimination when they are seeking to rent or buy housing, or
secure financing. You cannot be; discriminated against by race, color, national origin, religion,
sex, disability, and the presence of children.
The Co-op House Rules and Regulations
New York City co-op boards are notorious for their house rules. They are picky about whom
they let live in their building, but it does not end there. There are also rules to follow once you
are living there. The rules are, ostensibly, for the unit owners’ financial well being and to
ensure everyone shows the proper respect for their neighbors.
Still, a co-op board’s policies are not uniform from one building to the next. Since there is not
much you can do once you move in, a little homework ahead of time can save you a lot of
headaches later on.
The Co-op House Rules
You may have some work to do to uncover the house rules. These do not have to reside in
one place. We advise reading them ahead of time to see what it includes. Some significant
areas for the co-op’s rules cover common areas, noise levels within your apartment, permitted
appliances (washer and dryers), subletting, and pets.
How strict is the board’s enforcement?
The co-op board could choose to enforce their house rules strictly. Alternatively, they could
be lax. Uncovering their enforcement policy requires some extra work on your part, but it is
well worth the effort. You may like living with a lot of rules, or you could find it stifling. Either
way, you want to know this information ahead of time to determine if you will be happy in
There are several sources of information. You should first tap your exclusive buyer’s agent. He
or she may very well have a lot of familiarity with the building that interests you. Your agent
could have even sold many units in the building.
Next, try to talk to people currently living in the building. If you do not know anyone
personally; you can use the time to get to know your potential neighbors, killing two birds
with one stone. Former building residents are another font of knowledge; although you
should take this with a grain of salt. Things might have changed, or they could have had a bad
You can ask everyone about general living conditions. If there is a particular rule that concerns
you, make sure to bring it up.
At this point, you are ready to scour the Internet. In this technological age, there is a myriad
of ways to obtain information. You can look at the various social media sites, even putting the
question out there for people to see.
What can you do?
If you feel the co-op board is enthusiastic in its enforcement; there, is not much you can do
once you move in. The city has information on how to resolve disputes, but these typically
involve boards that are not enforcing the bylaws, maintenance issues, and violations of the
Final Co-op Thoughts
You may wish to prioritize which co-op house rules you can live with, and those that are deal
breakers. Some are obvious, such as a no pets rule when you have one or are planning on
getting one. Others require some thought into your current and future lifestyle.
Sample House Rules for a Condo or Co-op
The public areas and stairways of the Residential Unit shall not be obstructed or used for any
purpose other than ingress to and egress from the apartments in the Residential Unit, and the
fire towers shall not; be blocked; in any way.
Each Unit Owner shall keep his unit in a good state of preservation and cleanliness. He shall
not allow anything whatever to fall from the windows or doors of the Building, nor shall he
sweep or throw from the Building any dirt or other substance into any of the corridors or halls,
elevators, ventilators or elsewhere in the Building. No Unit Owner may place any object or
obstruction in or on its windows.
The Unit Owners shall place their refuse in containers in such manner, at such times and in
such places as the Board of Managers or its agent may direct. The Unit Owners shall obtain
extermination services for the Units at such intervals as shall be necessary to maintain the
Units free of rats, mice, roaches and other vermin.
Children shall not play in the public halls, stairways or elevators; Except authorizes employees
of the Lessor, no one shall ho permitted on the roof unless expressly approved and for a
proper business by the Board of Directors.
No disturbing noises or objectionable odors may be produced upon or emanate from any
Residential Unit including, without limitation, from any musical instrument, phonograph, radio,
television, receiver or similar tool if the same shall disturb or annoy any other Unit Owner.
Corridor doors shall be kept closed at all times except when in actual use for ingress and
Awnings and Window Air Conditioners
No shelters; window air-conditioning units or ventilators shall be used, in or about the
Residential Unit except such as shall have been expressly approved by the Lessor or the
managing agent nor shall anything be projected out of any window of the Residential unit
without similar approval.
Supplies goods and packages of every kind for the Units. Shall be provided in such manner as
the Board of Managers, or its agent may reasonably prescribe and the said Board of
Managers is not responsible for the loss of or damage to any such property; including loss or
damage that may occur through the carelessness or negligence of the employees of the
No Combustible or Explosive Materials
Unit Owners shall not permit or keep in their Residential Units any flammable; combustible or
explosive material, chemical or substance; except such products as are required in regular
professional and business use.
Water closets and other water apparatus in the Building shall not be used, for any purpose
other than those for which were designed. Nor shall any sweepings; rubbish bags or other
articles should be blended. Any damage resulting from the misuse of any water closets or
other apparatus in a Unit shall be repaired; and paid for by the owner of such Unit.
No vehicle belonging to a Unit Owner or an employee; or visitor of a Unit Owner shall be
parked in such manner as to impede or prevent ready access to any entrance to or exit from
the Building or Common Elements by any vehicle of any kind whatsoever.
If any key or keys are entrusted by a Unit Owner or occupant or by any member of his family
or by his agent. Servant, employee, licensee or visitor to an employee of the Board of
Managers. Whether for such Unit or an automobile, truck or other items of personal property,
the acceptance of the key shall be at the sole risk of such Unit Owner or occupant, and the
Board of Managers shall not be liable for injury, loss or damage of any nature whatsoever
directly or indirectly resulting therefrom or connected therewith.
House Rules for Common Elements
No Unit Owner shall alter, impair or otherwise affect the Common Elements without the prior
written consent of the Board of Managers, except as expressly permitted herein or in the
Declaration or the By-Laws.
No pets other than dogs, cats caged birds and fish (which do not cause a nuisance, health
hazard or unsanitary condition) may be kept, in a Residential Unit without the consent of the
Board of Managers or the managing agent. Any Unit Owner who wishes to hold more than
two (2) pets in his Unit must obtain the prior written consent of the Board of Managers. Each
Residential Unit Owner who keeps any pet in his Unit will be, required to;
● (a) Indemnify and hold harmless the Condominium; the Board of Managers, all Unit
Owners and the managing agent from all claims and expenses resulting from acts of
such pet; and
● (b) abide by any reasonable Rules and Regulations of the Condominium adopted
concerning it. The Board of Managers may require that pet owners agree with the
Board of Managers confirming such owner’s obligations concerning their pets.
80% Carpet Rules
Unless expressly authorized by the Board of Managers in each case, the floors of each. Rugs
or carpeting or equally active noise-reducing material, to cover at least 80% of the floor area
of each room excepting only kitchens, bathrooms, maid’s rooms, closets, and foyer.
Some boards are stricter than others, which you should know before you consider making an
offer. Hanging decorations on your door or patio may find you in violation of a rule. Learning
the house rules, even talking to residents, will be helpful.