Page 6 - CooperatorNews Chicagoland Winter 2022
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6 COOPERATORNEWS CHICAGOLAND  —WINTER 2022  CHICAGO.COOPERATORNEWS.COM  If you live in, work in, or provide ser-  vices for a co-op, condo, or HOA, you know  the nation’s multifamily communities? We  and getting in their faces—just really act-  that however harmonious a building or as-  sociation is in general, there is always that  out.   one person—or perhaps more than one—  who throws a wrench in the works. It could   be the guy who seems to take pleasure in  and attendant restrictions on public life  unknowns. It was a difficult period.”  disrespecting the doorman, or the lady  have made time at home essential to surviv-  who insists on feeding the feral cats (and  al—both in the sense of avoiding the spread  dedication and hard work—as well as “the   by extension the neighborhood rats), or the  of a potentially deadly contagion, and in the  90% of the people in the condos and co-ops   family  who lets their kids play  basketball  sense of keeping work, family, and other  that we manage \[who\] really were wonder-  inside their apartment. These are the peo-  ple who—at best—regularly suck up more  one’s own domestic confines. In a co-op  people home all day, and ambient stress lev-  than their fair share of energy and resources  or condo, particularly those of the vertical  els so high, “there are a lot more complaints   from the community, or—at worst—create  variety, the communal element of shared  about neighbors—the smoke complaints   an undesirable, unhealthy, or even danger-  ous living situation for themselves and their  brings both an alleviation and a magnifica-  neighbors.  Now throw in one of the most devastat-  ing pandemics the modern world has ever  Building  Group,  a property  management  or swim it off, so that increased tension as   seen, and it’s a wonder we haven’t all turned  firm based in Chicago, sees this phenom-  into some form of   that guy  . After two years  enon firsthand at the buildings his company  sion escalated to the point where manage-  of loss—of loved ones, of homes, of jobs, of  manages, which are mostly luxury highrises  ment was compelled to involve the build-  normalcy— the news has been full of reports  in the city’s Gold Coast and other  down-  of incidents ranging from the outlandish to  town neighborhoods.   Of the COVID era,   the criminal going down in settings that are  he says, “There’s a lot more people working  koff, partner with Chicago-based law firm   normally benign: grocery stores, airplanes,  from home—and there’s a lot of people who  Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC. He explains that   hair salons, restaurants, school board meet-  ings, even medical facilities. Whether it’s  eyes around the building.” As the pandemic  sonableness” to be considered a violation of   for attention (even the negative kind), an  evolved, triggering lockdowns, shelter-in-  expression of deep frustration and anxiety  place orders, and other unprecedented steps  documents, or the warranty of habitability,   over the seemingly endless state of crisis, or  intended  to  slow  the  spread, Stoller  says,  in the case of co-ops. “I’ve had calls from   just jerks happy to have an excuse to be es-  pecially jerky, it seems that more and more  ing out, unfortunately; pounding on walls,  plaining that the vacuum in the unit above   people are indulging in disruptive, combat-  ive behaviors. Has this also been the case in  cases, they were going up to staff members   spoke to several pros in the industry to find  ing  inappropriately.  And  that  did  create  a   The COVID Conundrum  The coronavirus’s rampant transmission  Especially early on, when there were a lot of   fundamental functions going from  within  ful”—he goes on to say that with so many   walls, spaces, and financial obligations  have gone up; complaints about people   tion of the effects of such isolation.   Jim Stoller, president and CEO of The  many buildings, you couldn’t go work out   just aren’t working—so there are a lot more  complaints  must  meet a  “standard  of rea-  “there were some people who were act-  walking around the buildings. In some  them is bothering them, that they’re trying   lot of additional stress for board members   and for management, and also for the staff.   While Stoller praises his staff for their   hanging out in the lobby have gone up. And   then, with the amenities \[being closed\] in   well.” In many cases, says Stoller, that ten-  ing’s or association’s attorneys.  One of those attorneys is Howard S. Da-  an association’s or corporation’s governing   managers \[saying\] that a unit owner is com-  to work and they can’t work, and they’re de-  manding that something be done.”   This type of complaint, he says, does not   meet the reasonableness standard. People   are entitled to vacuum their floors, and in a   multifamily setting, it’s inevitable that some   noise from such activities will penetrate the   walls of adjoining units. So how should a   board respond?   “What I tell boards is that in this unusual   time, there’s an aspect of this that’s not le-  gal expertise, that’s not pure management   skill—it’s psychology, dealing with owners   with a little bit of tenderness, a little bit of   empathy,” advises Dakoff. “Because ev-  eryone’s in an unusual position, and more   people are home than ever before. They’re   trying to work and live in a small space, in   a vertical high-rise generally. And so they’re   hearing things they never heard before.”   Getting Serious  While there are prescribed remedies for   incidents that rise to the level of an objective   violation—legal letters, fines, even eviction   in extreme cases—the appropriate response   to a more subjective complaint might be “a   little bit of understanding and empathy,”   says Dakoff. Management and the board   “may be able to defuse an angry owner just   by educating them.”  Such education could include reminding   shareholders and owners that part of living   in a co-op or condo is being a member of   a community, “and also that you give up   certain rights and privileges when you’re   a member of a cooperative or association,”   Dakoff continues. “Over the years,” he says,   “and especially in the last few months, we’ve   had to basically tell people that if they really   need total peace and quiet, that’s not going   to happen in a highrise in downtown Chi-  cago. It may just be that condominium liv-  ing isn’t right for them.”  Jay Cohen, president of A. Michael Tyler   Realty, a management company serving co-  ops and condos in Manhattan, Brooklyn,   Queens, and Long Island, agrees. “There’s   a lot of reasonable judgement that must   go into responding to complaints,” he says,   “and each must be dealt with on a case by   case basis.” Cohen stresses that “\[property\]   management is a people business. You have   to take into account the human factor in   dealing with these situations.”    Another factor that can add to the com-  plexity of such situations in a residential   setting is the fact that some perpetrators   Dealing With Disruptive Residents  Empathy & Education vs. Enforcement & Eviction  BY DARCEY GERSTEIN  MANAGEMENT  continued on page 14

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