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Adam Leitman Bailey and John Desiderio Adam Leitman Bailey and John Desiderio

The COVID-19 pandemic has confronted building owners, managers and boards of New York City rental, condominium, and cooperative-owned buildings with operational challenges that few, if any, buildings have ever experienced since the so-called Spanish Flu pandemic—a hundred years ago. The “social distancing” rules and restrictions imposed by governments at all levels has spawned questions that buildings ask and are asked by their residents regarding the responsibilities and duties of both managers and occupants of the buildings.

New York residential multiple dwellings generally fall into the three categories of rental, condominium, or cooperative apartment buildings. To write this article looking at the short and long-term legal implications and issues affecting residential living during COVID-19 pandemic, we researched and analyzed decisions of courts that have handled similar issues, during epidemics of scarlet Fever, Spanish flu, and small pox, in relation to the application of federal and state case law and legislation, during the last century, and to the requirements mandated by today’s executive orders.

Protecting the Health of Building Occupants

The primary responsibility of building managers, whether they be owners of rental buildings, or members of cooperative boards or members of the boards of managers of condominiums, and/or their respective property managers or managing agents, is to maintain the health and safety of their buildings and their occupants. See Multiple Dwelling Law, §2 (Legislative Finding). “The statutory and regulatory scheme which governs and controls the supervision of residential buildings in the City of New York is based upon the social and economic premise that it is the responsibility of the owner of residential buildings to maintain the building, remove violations and insure that the tenants have habitable premises in which to live.” Torres v. Ragonesi, 83 Misc.2d 84, 370 NYS2d 779 (NYC Civil Court, New York County 1975).

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