Conventional wisdom holds that if you have to have neighbors, you’re better off living next door to owners than renters. By definition, owners have a stake in their building, and are supposedly better neighbors. They are cleaner, quieter, and friendlier. They keep better hours. Their dogs don’t bark. They pay their bills on time. They are wonderful and amazing in every way.
Tenants, on the other hand, have as they say a “bad rep.” They are drifters. They don’t stay in one place long enough to make nice with the neighbors—probably because they’re on the lam. They play loud, unpleasant music until the wee hours. They are always late with the rent, if they even bother to pay at all. They are mean, rude and selfish. They probably drink too much and their dogs are often unruly and terrify residents and small children.
Obviously, the “common wisdom” isn’t exactly accurate. There are plenty of wonderful tenants, and just as many lousy owners. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t occasional conflict between rental tenants and fully-vested owners in an HOA, often over issues with house rules or conflicts between neighbors.
It’s important for HOA boards and managers to familiarize themselves with what rights and responsibilities tenants have, and to uphold those rights under the law. Because co-ops and condos differ dramatically in how they view those who rent, we’ll examine each one separately.
First, the co-op. This conventional meaning of a sublessee confuses the term somewhat when it comes to co-op apartments, however. Because co-op shareholders technically, through a proprietary lease, own not the apartment itself, but shares of the cooperative, a tenant of the shareholder is considered a subtenant or the sublessee. If Jane is a shareholder residing in the Top Shelf Towers co-op building, and rents her apartment to Nick, Nick is a subtenant of Jane.