Hit Co-op TV Show Reveals How Not to Deal With Objectionable Conduct
Herrick partner Deborah Koplovitz spoke to Habitat Weekly about how the popular TV program, Only Murders in the Building, which takes place in a New York City cooperative building, plays with the premise of life in a co-op. The article states that Deborah agreed "the situation is played for laughs, but it contains serious lessons for co-op boards."
The article outlines one scene in which the three main characters, who started a podcast about the building, "are hauled before a meeting of all shareholders in the co-op’s ornate lobby... The board president asks for a show of hands from people who want to toss the offending threesome out of the cooperative. Just about every right hand shoots into the air. The trio is history."
Deborah remarked, "That was totally wrong! You have to follow procedures. Boards have to first give the offender a warning about objectionable conduct and a time frame to stop it. If the shareholder doesn’t correct it, then the board has to call a special meeting that’s noticed properly. Usually the board does it without calling in all shareholders, just meets with the offender. Sometimes the shareholder falls on his sword and asks for a second or third chance. Sometimes the shareholder asks for time to sell the apartment, because if they get evicted they lose a valuable asset. And sometimes the board files a lawsuit seeking a judgment of possession. As long as the board follows proper procedures, courts will not second-guess them because of the Business Judgment Rule."
Another portion of the article discusses how one resident practices her bassoon, which her neighbors can hear, "but nobody complained," Deborah said, adding, "People in a New York co-op definitely would have complained about it."
The article notes that the board president in the show, Bunny, is "a caricature of the fire-breathing, power-drunk co-op board president of legend." Deborah observed, "She was great... We've all seen her before." She added, "Actually, I think most board presidents are very capable, and they’re doing the job for the right reasons."
Deborah concluded with important questions from the show, like "Where do you draw the line on objectionable conduct?... Does it extend to behavior – like a popular podcast – that injures the reputation of the building? Is that enough? I guess it could be." She also questioned the necessity of kicking the main characters out of the building, saying, "I’m a big believer in harmony," and, "Were there less onerous, more creative means that this board could have turned to? That’s always worth asking."