Before you buy a co-op unit (technically, shares in the corporation) or start a dispute with your board, it could help to know how your ownership would differ from more common forms of home ownership, such as condominium.
This knowledge could inform your decision. It could also help you understand what recourse you might have available if a conflict arises.
Co-op in New York City
As explained by the New York Attorney General’s office, co-op ownership is not real-property ownership. Rather than buying a house, you would be purchasing shares in a building corporation.
These shares have an association with a specific apartment, and owning them gives you the right to hold a lease. Therefore, you have a relationship with the governing body of your co-op that is similar to the relationship between a conventional landlord and tenant.
Condo versus co-op
Co-ops contrast with condominiums in the sense that condos are real estate parcels. When you buy a condo, you own that condo — there is no lease.
Of course, you might still be subject to various rules, similar to the guidelines you would find in a co-op. For example, both types of organizations might have bylaws about noise, care of common areas, pets, subletting, renovations and so on. Both also tend to have boards made up of unit owners.
Basically, co-ops and condos are quite different. Whether you are buying a co-op unit, trying to resolve a dispute, considering joining a board or doing anything else regarding co-ops in New York City, it will probably help to understand the relatively unique legal position of this type of ownership. You might have rights of which you were not aware, or there could be restrictions you did not expect.