If you are looking to renovate your apartment you will most likely need to enter an “Alteration Agreement” with your building’s board prior to renovating.
What is an Alteration Agreement?
An Alteration Agreement is a contract one must enter before renovating an apartment. This contract is between an individual apartment owner in a Condo or shareholder in a Co-Op and their building board. The Alteration Agreement outlines the building rules, requirements, responsibilities, and expectations for the owner and board throughout the renovation process.
I am Jorge Fontan an architect in NYC and owner of Manhattan based architecture firm Fontan Architecture. At our office we renovate lots of apartments and are very familiar with the protocols. In this post I am going to review alteration agreements and some of the typical points in these documents.
Alteration Agreement Definition
An alteration agreement is a contract agreement for performing alterations on an apartment. The Condo owner or Co-Op shareholder will sign the agreement with the Building Board or Building Management Company.
Some alteration agreements are more complicated than others, and some are quite straight forward. Alteration Agreements typically outline a few key matters:
- Apartment Alteration Protocols
- Application Requirements
- Building Rules
- Penalties and Responsibilities
Apartment Alteration Protocols
The alteration agreement may often outline the protocols for the renovation. This includes the review process by the board, management company, and reviewing architect. You will submit architectural plans to your management company for review. These plans must be prepared by a registered architect of course. The managing agent will typically forward the plans to another architect for review.
Not all buildings in New York have a reviewing architect but most of the ones we have worked in do. The reviewing architect or engineer will typically be billed to you. They will usually have comments for your architect. Normally these comments are about building specific regulations or requests for additional information. Do not be scared if you get 5 pages of comments. Half the time these comments are generic and sometimes copy and pasted from previous applications. You may also have serious objections that need to be resolved or that may result in a change in design.
You must get approval from your reviewing architect / engineer, management company, and board before you file with the Department of Buildings for a permit. Someone from the board or management will issue the final approval to proceed. You may need signatures from them for filing with certain city agencies.
Alteration Agreement Building Rules
Alteration agreements sometimes outline building rules. As an architect, I have seen many alteration agreements, which always review at my office. Some are more detailed than others. You may want to have your lawyer review it as well, but they are usually quite straight forward. Sometimes the alteration agreements outline building rules and restrictions. Some of the typical rules and restrictions are:
- Wet Over Dry – This restricts you from expanding a wet space (like a kitchen or bathroom) over a dry space (like a bedroom) on the floor below. Not all buildings have this rule.
- Replace Branch Piping and Valves – Most Buildings (especially old ones) will ask you to replace all plumbing branch piping and valves if you are doing plumbing work.
- No Work On Risers – You normally cannot work on or reroute plumbing, gas, or electrical risers in your building.
- No Chipping Concrete – Most buildings do not allow you to chip or channel concrete. Some buildings do allow this.
These are a few examples of typical building renovation restrictions. There are many more and every building can have there own nuanced rules. We have another post on Wet Over Dry if you want to read more on the subject.
Building alteration agreements may also outline work schedules such as time limits on how long a given renovation can take. They also can outline acceptable working hours. Rules for notification to neighbors, management, and the super for certain types of work can also be included. Generally, an assortment of rules and regulations to cover your renovation.
Application Requirements & Supporting Documents
Aside from signing the alteration agreement, you may need to provide additional documents to your board before renovating your apartment.
- Security Deposit
- Architectural Plans by a Licensed Architect
- Written Scope Of Work
- Product Specifications / Cut Sheets
- Contractors Licenses, Including Subcontractors
- Certificates Of Insurance for all Contractors
- DOB Filing Paperwork
- Written Response to any comments from the reviewing architect
- All Required Permits
Alteration Agreement Penalties and Responsibilities
Your building alteration agreement may outline penalties, for example some buildings limit the schedule of a renovation. If the work exceeds a certain time frame you may be subject to financial penalties. Additionally, the agreement will hold you financially responsible for any problems caused by your contractor or damage to common areas.
Alteration Agreement Co-Op
Most people assume that Co-Op boards are stricter and more hands on than Condo boards. This varies from building to building. I have found Condo boards that are very strict and some Co-Op boards that are not. We have another post on How to Renovate Your Co-Op in NYC if you want to read more.
Condominium Alteration Agreement
It is commonly assumed that Condo boards are easier going and more hands off, but this varies from building to building as well.
An alteration agreement is a common practice for apartment renovations. Don’t get overwhelmed when reading one. You should discuss it with your architect and if you have concerns you can always get an opinion from an attorney.
Thank You for reading our blog post on NYC Apartment Alteration Agreements
Please feel free to post questions or comments below. If you are interested in discussing a specific project you can contact us directly to speak with an architect.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.