Just In: County Executive Latimer Signs Co-Op Transparency Bill
John Jordan | December 2018
WHITE PLAINS— In one of the biggest legislative victories in the history of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and its predecessor organizations, Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed into law today a bill aimed at reforming the cooperative purchase process.
At a press conference on Dec. 14 County Executive Latimer signed the bill, sponsored by bill co-sponsors Christopher A. Johnson (D-Yonkers) and Catherine Borgia, (D-Cortlandt, Croton on Hudson, Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Peekskill) and Vice-Chairwoman of the Board Alfreda Williams into law.
Under the new Westchester County legislation, cooperative boards of directors will have 15 days to notify buyers whether or not their applications for purchase are complete. Once an application is deemed complete, boards will have 60 days to accept or reject the application. If an application is rejected, the co-op board must send a notice of the rejection to the county’s Human Rights Commission, which has the power to investigate instances of discrimination under the county’s Fair Housing Law.
For co-op boards that fail to meet the 60-day threshold, a fine of $1,000 could be levied for their first offense; a second offense would involve a $1,500 fine and the Human Rights Commission would levy a fine of $2,000 for a third offense.
Westchester County now joins Suffolk County, the Village of Hempstead and most recently Rockland County in passing co-operative transparency legislation.
Earlier this year, Rockland County passed a co-op reform bill that requires a co-op board to provide written notice to the applicant of its decision within 45 days of the receipt of a fully completed purchase application. If the co-op board fails to act on that application within the mandated 45-day period, the application will be deemed approved. Suffolk County passed a cooperative reform bill in 2009 and Hempstead passed its bill in 2012.
At the press conference, Latimer was joined by Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins and incoming New York State Senator Peter Harckham, and legislators Johnson and Williams. In total, there were seven sponsors of the co-op transparency bill that passed the County Board of Legislators by a 13-4 margin on Nov. 19.
Latimer praised Deputy County Executive Jenkins, the County Board of Legislators and the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, as well as the Building and Realty Institute of Westchester & the Mid-Hudson Region and affiliates, which debated and eventually agreed to support the compromise legislation.
The original bill under consideration called for application receipt notification within 10 days and a notice of decision rendered by the board and received by the applicant within 45 days. The bill also mandated a co-op board disclose the reason for the rejection of a cooperative purchasers’ application. The compromise bill does not include that mandate. The BRI vehemently opposed the original proposal.
The County Executive, Jenkins and the other legislators said that in the end the debate led to a “fine piece of legislation” that will address the timeliness of the co-op purchase transaction and is a good first step in helping address discrimination in the process.
HGAR President Barry Kramer thanked Latimer, Jenkins and the County Board of Legislators for passing the legislation. “I think it is a step in the right direction.” Kramer also praised the efforts of HGAR and BRI to agree to the compromise bill.
Albert Annunziata, executive director of the BRI, said the organization’s affiliate Condo-Cooperative Advisory Council has committed $30,000 to educate property owners, property managers and cooperative boards on the cooperative purchase process.
He also stressed that any cooperative board that is a member of the Condo-Cooperative Advisory Council that is found to have engaged in discrimination against a prospective buyer “would be drummed out of the organization.
It should be noted that New York State Association of Realtors will once again have passage of statewide co-op disclosure legislation as one of its top legislative priorities in the 2019 legislative session in Albany.