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Question: How much should I expect to pay to my co-op board for my renovations? I’m having new kitchen cabinets and appliances installed, along with painting and new floor tiles. The whole project will probably be about $30,000. But my board wants $250 for the managing agent, $50 a day for every day the crew is moving stuff in or out and a $5,000 (or 15 percent, whichever is greater) deposit. Give me a break! It’s not like we’re moving walls or anything. This is extortion!

— Paying through the nose in Carnegie Hill

Dear Paying:

Forgive me for repeating myself, but every co-op is different. What’s a routine little job in one building is like moving the Eiffel Tower in another.

Your building is somewhere in between.

When it comes to seemingly nit-picking rules and fees piled on top of fees, building boards have two very real, quite legitimate, concerns when it comes to individual shareholders or condo-owners renovating their apartments: Will the changes affect the building itself? How much will they affect other residents?

That some boards engage in rather bizarre overkill addressing those concerns is, well, it’s just what boards do. If you want your project to go ahead, you’re pretty much stuck with the fees here. But you might want to bring up some points at a future board meeting.

Let’s look at your fees:

  • $250 for the managing agent? Really? It’s probably in the contract, but isn’t overseeing things like reviewing plans, processing forms and coordinating schedules sort of the job description of a manager? Or consider running for the board and volunteer to negotiate the next manager’s contract.
  • $50 a day? For what? That’s probably earmarked for minor building wear and tear and oversight by the building staff. While crews are required to clean up after themselves every day, building staffers are likely to end up mopping or vacuuming behind the crews and other minor associated jobs. If the bulk of the money actually goes to the staff, I’d say this OK, but not if it’s just a backdoor way of putting an extra $500 or $1,000 in the building’s coffers.
  • As deposits go $5,000/15 percent isn’t particularly outlandish, and it does serve as insurance against a mishap that requires the building to step in and fix something. If something does go wrong, make sure you don’t end up paying more than whatever the actual cost of repair. And remember: It’s a deposit; they’re supposed to give it all back if nothing bad happens.

BTW: You don’t mention it, so maybe you should consider yourself lucky that your board isn’t having your plans reviewed by the building architect. They’d bill you for that, too.

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.