Those seeking co-op or condo living in the city should be aware there are a particular set of policies, called house rules, that govern everyday behavior. After all, many people, often with entirely different backgrounds, are living vertically in tight quarters in New York City. This makes rules a necessary ingredient to ensure harmony amongst neighbors.

This is less formal than bylaws, which concern technical matters such as the number of board members, how often elections are held, and the frequency of meetings. However, house rules, which cover a wide array of areas, are essential to know and understand before signing the contract.

Where to find the House Rules

Ask the listing agent where to find the 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 document.

A more extended 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 living could be in the governing document, declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R).

Common areas

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 provisions of the building gym if there is one.

Moving inside

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 greater, 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. This is called a quorum.

The enforcement

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.

Keep in mind; the board can ask you to leave under terms of a propriety lease (for a co-op), particularly if there have been repeated violations, despite warnings. Granted, this is an extreme solution. For a co-op, most proprietary leases allow the board to decide when to choose to enforce a violation of a house rule, under a business judgment rule. This 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

In practice, 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 is cannot cover

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.

Final thoughts

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.

13 House Rules Samples:

  1. The public balls 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 hindered in any way.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 instrument 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 egress.
  5. No awnings, 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.
  6. Supplies, goods, and packages of every kind for the Units are to be delivered in such manner as the Board of Managers, or its agent may reasonably prescribe and the said Board of Managers is not responsible for 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 Building.
  7. Unit Owners shall not permit or keep in their Residential Units any inflammable, combustible or explosive material, chemical or substance, except such products as are required in normal professional and business use.
  8. Water closets and other water apparatus in the Building shall not be used for any purpose other than those for which they were designed, nor shall any sweepings, rubbish bags or other articles be thrown into same. Any damage resulting from misuse of any water closets or other apparatus in a Unit shall be repaired and paid for by the owner of such Unit.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 item 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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
    1. (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
    2. (b) abide by any and all reasonable Rules and Regulations of the Condominium adopted with respect thereto. The Board of Managers may require that pet owners agree with the Board of Managers confirming such owner’s obligations concerning their pets.
  13. Unless expressly authorized by the Board of Managers in each case, the floors of each. Apartment must be covered with rugs or carpeting or equally active noise-reducing material, to the extent of at least 80% of the floor area of each l”oom excepting only kitchens, bathrooms, maid’s rooms, closets, and foyer.


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