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We enjoy eavesdropping on what board members are talking about on Habitat Magazine's BoardTalk forum, and every once in awhile we stumble across something irresistible.
Consider this recent thread entitled "home visits." Hmmm, we thought, something about nurses aides or social workers for the homebound....?
"Our board is considering paying home visits to applicants who are purchasing in our co-op before they will approve them. Anyone doing this or hearing about this practice. Is this legal?"
So far, the answers are sparse: One poster remarked that it sounded unwise, and another said they'd once known someone unlucky enough to be home-visited by a co-op board on the Lower East Side "but it may have been some kind of tax-sheltered or subsidized co-op."
We checked in with two of our BrickTank experts, a managing agent and a lawyer, for their reaction.
Stephen Sladkus, a real estate attorney with Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, said home visits were probably legal, so long as the board conducts them with every prospective purchaser.
"As for whether it's a good or bad idea? I think if people knew about this requirement when bidding on an apartment, many people would look at another building instead," he says.
We also bounced this off Michael Wolfe, the president of Midboro Management. He doesn't know of any boards who conduct home visits, and he doesn't advise it.
"On the positive side, the board or its representative can provide an added measure of due-dilligence. For example, the home was neat and clean, pet or smoke odor was prevalent, etc. However, it could also expose the board to issues concerning discrimination," he says.
"For example, the board conducts such a visit and they turn down the application, but the inspection revealed a protected class. You have now exposed the board to a discrimination suit even though it is not warranted," he says.
Also, the the application process is invasive and comprehensive enough: "The letters of reference, background checks and personal interviews should suffice," says Wolfe.