What is a Condo Declaration?

A Condo Declaration is the legal document establishing the ownership and rules of a property. It is filed with the local governing authority, which in NYC is the Online City Register.

Why is a Condo Declaration Important?

These documents can provide lots of insight into a building. When you’re in contract for a condo, you’ll likely receive a copy. However, there are often some juicy bits that could be of help before you get to the contract phase.

Lucky for us, the Online City Register operates a website called Acris, where these documents can be accessed by the public.

Soho Mews: Example of a Typical Manhattan Condo Declaration

  1. Only one pet (cat, dog, caged bird, fish) is permitted. That will be one sad fish tank. Oh, and your pet has to ride in the designated elevator. (House Rule 12)
  2. The commercial space can be a restaurant, but not a sex shop, homeless shelter or rehab facility. (Section 6.13.5)
  3. No Barbecuing. (House Rule 33)
  4. The commercial space owns just 9.5% of the condo, yet their voting rights are 28.5%. That could lead to some issues down the road. (Exhibit B and Section 2.1.1)
  5. The townhouses have a deeded ownership of some of the “shared garden” space. Good for them, ownership of shared terraces is usually very murky. (Exhibit B)
  6. There are special rules in place for the first 5 years while 25% of units remain unsold. The condo board’s power is severely limited during this time, something to consider when purchasing in a new condo. (Section 2.3.1)
  7. The building can’t establish capital reserves beyond what is needed for projects in the next 12 months. No saving for a rainy day at this condo. (Section 2.33 to 2.35)
  8. If you buy two units at the end of a hall, you can incorporate that part of the hallway into your apartment without permission or extra cost. Free square footage! (Section 6.14.6)
  9. No Bikes can be stored on Terraces. (House Rule 35)
  10. Quiet hours are 11pm to 7am. Construction can only be performed M-F from 8am to 5pm. (House Rule 11)

As previously said, there’s some interesting stuff in condo declarations and it’s important to review them before signing on the dotted line. One caveat is that for older condos, the House Rules may have been amended over time and not republished to Acris. You’ll always want to get the latest documents during negotiations.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is a personal interpretation and should not constitute legal advice.