Real Estate

Should We Oust Our Co-op Managing Agent and Find Another?

Q. I live in a large co-op building in the West Village. Our central air-conditioning has been spotty, and on 22 different days this summer, building management shut it off. We’d get very little notice — one day, management gave us a 30-minute warning. Then they shut the air-conditioning off for good in early September because of damage to the cooling equipment, despite the high heat and humidity in the days that followed. Is there a way to hire a new management company, or are there other actions that we can take? We pay a high monthly maintenance fee and this has been very frustrating.

A: Is the co-op’s management company — also known as the managing agent — aware of the problem, and is it being addressed? If not, the co-op’s board of directors should respond to complaints from the shareholders and take action.

“There needs to be transparency on the part of the co-op board and the managing agent as to why there was spotty service throughout the summer,” said Debra J. Guzov, a real estate lawyer in Manhattan. “If there is a problem, the board has a duty to the shareholders to address that problem.”

The managing agent is hired by the co-op’s board of directors and typically assigns an account representative to carry out the co-op’s business at the direction of the board. Your managing agent should bring in an engineer or reputable heating-and-cooling company to inspect the air-conditioning equipment and identify the problem.

Meanwhile, you should take a look at the co-op’s proprietary lease, bylaws and house rules, to see if there are any dates listed for when shareholders should expect the air-conditioning to be active. This information can strengthen your approach to the board.

If the board is dissatisfied with the managing agent, it can request a different account representative for the building or even terminate the managing agent’s contract and hire another company. “Finding the right managing agent and assigned property manager is always a challenge,” said Ronald H. Gitter, a real estate lawyer who focuses on co-ops and condominiums. “If a service provider is not doing its job properly, it never gets any better.”

The managing agent, however, may not be the problem. It’s possible that the building doesn’t have enough money to investigate and make the necessary repairs. “Ultimately, a lot of these issues do relate to maintenance, and there are budgetary concerns,” Ms. Guzov said.

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