Q: Even though New York is now in Phase 2 of its reopening process, the board of my Manhattan co-op is still following strict rules about vendors and visitors. All guests have to fill out a form providing their name and address, and answer personal questions about the reason for their visit, the state of their health, and even the mode of transport they used. Housekeepers, dog walkers and nannies still can’t come in at all. Is the board allowed to be this invasive and restrictive?
A: New York City has begun the slow process of reopening, but reopening does not mean a return to normal. This next phase will look quite different from the city we knew before the shutdown.
The state’s guidelines set minimum requirements for buildings, adding that owners are “free to provide additional precautions or increased restrictions.” The guidelines require buildings to screen all visitors with a questionnaire that asks about Covid-19 exposure. So your co-op’s form sounds like one that is in line with current rules, even if it may seem prying.
Both the state and the Real Estate Board of New York recommend restricting nonessential visitors. Since the recommendations do not clarify whether dog walkers, housekeepers or nannies are essential, your building has wide latitude there.
“Yes, things are beginning to open up, but we’re living under certain restrictions,” said Phyllis H. Weisberg, a real estate lawyer and partner in the New York City office of the law firm Armstrong Teasdale. “I’ve been speaking with lots of boards and they’re wrestling with these issues. They’re not black-and-white issues.”
Some buildings have been letting housekeepers in for weeks, while others haven’t loosened their restrictions at all. “In most instances boards have taken a more conservative approach,” said Daniel J. Wollman, the chief executive of Gumley Haft, a property management company, adding that boards can enact policies that are more stringent than city or state rules.
Ask your board and managing agent to provide you with clearer guidance and a better sense of the timeline. When do they plan to start letting vendors back in, and under what conditions? You and your neighbors should be able to start planning for that future date, so you can inform your service providers of the new protocols. As people return to work, they are going to need nannies and dog walkers again — these services become increasingly essential.
“Certainly as New York City opens up, you’re going to have people going out and going to work, the buildings will be more open to the outside world,” Ms. Weisberg said.
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