Conversion of Apartments to Condominiums and Cooperatives: Protecting Tenants in New York

In recent years, the number of conversions of rental apartments to cooperative and condominium ownership has increased dramatically. Such conversions often result in extreme hardships for tenants in the buildings affected. Those who are unable or unwilling to pay the purchase price of an apartment are generally forced to seek other rental accommodations at a time when these are increasingly difficult to find -a problem which becomes especially severe for elderly tenants and those with low incomes. In addition, tenants who purchase apartments may suffer the abuses which often accompany sales of condominium and cooperative units. A further problem in certain areas is that the widespread dislocation which is often a consequence of conversions destroys the cohesiveness of neighborhoods where large numbers of tenants have long resided. Recent amendments to the New York General Business Law are designed to protect rental tenants against these hardships. The amendments’ primary device for achieving this purpose is the prohibition against the sale of any apartments in a building as cooperative or condominium units unless a minimum number of rental tenants in that building have agreed to purchase apartments. Evaluation of the desirability of enacting similar measures in other states requires consideration of several questions: the exact causes of the increasing numbers of conversions; the consequences of conversions, not only for tenants in the buildings involved, but also for the neighborhoods where converted buildings are located; and the merits of alternative solutions to the problem.