Question: I’m a relative newcomer to New York and a new co-op owner in Queens. What’s with these “non-refundable fees”? According to our co-op management documents, minor renovation requires $250 along with a $500 security deposit, and major renovation requires $500 in non-refundable fees. I asked for an explanation, but was told simply that there is a fee for any renovation (not an explanation). My curiosity is not satisfied, but as a newbie, I guess this goes with co-op territory? Is this standard?

— Jerked around in Jackson Heights

Dear Jerked:

Five hundred bucks? That’s all? Consider yourself lucky.

Most co-ops pile on the charges and fees when a shareholder takes on a major renovation, and the non-refundable fee is just a small part.

Some typical charges:

Security deposit: This is the biggie that will blow a hole through your proposed budget. Some buildings charge 10 to 15 percent of the total budget for the renovation (others charge a flat fee — $5,000 or more), which is held to cover any expenses incurred by the building as a result of your renovation. That’s anything from scratching the wood panel in the elevator to damage to the plumbing.

Managing agent: The building manager will review plans, process various forms, check on contractors’ insurance coverage and coordinate schedules, all of which will be charged to you.

Architect: A major renovation will almost certainly require review of your plans by the building’s architect or engineer. Depending on how much work you’re having done and how it may affect the rest of the building structure, you could be looking at more than $1,000 for the professional review.

Cleaning: Although work crews will be required to clean up hallways and other common areas at the end of each day, many buildings tack on an extra $50-$100 a day to cover any extra work required of the building staff.

Late fees: Typically, a building will set a time limit on a project — say 60 days. If the job goes into the 61st day, the building may start fining you. Fees of $100-$250 per day are usual, and you might see $1,500 per day in some tonier Manhattan buildings.

Welcome to New York!

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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