Buying a co-op? Buyer beware: Mold, bad management, corrupt board
I bought my co-op in Norwood in late February 2002. I had the worst realtor ever. When I asked her about pets, she laughed and said, “anything but horses!”. Sure enough, my board interview, which was 2 people in their pajamas on a Monday night around 8 pm after work, abruptly said, “no dogs!!!”. I was set to close that week. My Hansel (daschund) would not be coming with me and would continue to live with my mom. But, I thought I made out well, 40k ask, talked down to 35k, although the bad realtor snuck on a $2,000 broker fee for her “services”.
My apt was well over 750sf, bright, sunny, high floor. But during the 2nd month, the rain came. I didn’t just have leaks. I had a RAINFOREST in my bedroom. I had a boyfriend over at the time, and we had to push my bed into the middle of the room, while it was RAINING all around us. I found out the definition of “pointing”: holes in the bricks that should have been maintained but weren’t. POINTING issues would plague me both in the living room and in the bedroom for the next 18 years. Once, I came home to find my whole living room ceiling sitting on my couch. Another time, the bathroom ceiling came down, and we found out the man who had passed on earlier that year, had left the shower head dripping.
Noise is an understatement. Technically, in a co-op, you have HOUSE RULES. In my co-op, which is mismanaged by Prime Locations, and has had one corrupt, self-serving board after another, some who even paid their own maintenance out of the coffers, driving up my low maintenance in 2002 for $496 a month to $625 a month to make up for the losses, House Rules are only enforced if the board and manager deem it so.
In 2005, the older lady below me complained because “she heard me walking” and “playing loud guitar”. I never played my guitar past 8 pm, and I am barely 100lbs. I ran out and bought many rugs, and passed inspection. But the daughter of the complaining old lady never forgot this slight. Cut to 2017, her own spoiled brat, E.M. moves in below me, having inherited the apt., and has one loud party after another that shook my floors. She would start “drumming” for the next 3 years, which was her taking her speaker/phone/google and aiming it to the ceiling with intermittent bad garage band sounds, or sometimes even KNOCKING ON THE CEILING in the middle of the night. Any male she had over, and it didn’t sound like a boyfriend, it sounded like two 4-year-olds on a playdate, would conspire with her to cause whatever noise she felt like causing. Complaints to management and the board went on deaf ears. Call the police. I did. Get witnesses. I had no less than 20 people standing on my floor vouching for what happened. Get the person below to side with you: not only had he been complaining, but they BLAMED HIM 2 floors down for what E.M. was doing.
One night I could not take it anymore, and I took an amp and yelled back at her. My neighbors unfortunately heard, sided against me, and I was fined almost $1,000, but to this day, management and the board will do NOTHING to stop the now 27-year-old from harassing me both through the floor as well as in the halls. She also likes to put herself in situations where we are in the same room/place so she can say that I said or did something. She has waited for me to leave so that she can chase me down the stairs. She is oddly obsessed with me. She needs me to “see her”. During Covid, when many of us were laid off, she screamed through the floor, “DOESN’T SHE WORK!!!!!!” This spoiled brat never worked a day in her life, mommy and daddy buy her everything from clothes to the apt to the 2013 BWM she drives. Three years, 6 months, this girl has not found a life of her own.
Finding an attorney is hard. If you qualify for legal aid and own the apt, they will not help you. If you call the legal hotline, there are MANY attorneys waiting to take your $40 to “consult” but not actually do anything. Other attorneys will write letters for $450 an hour with no cap. The attorney I found is a co-op specialist, but one year later, still has not filed my papers. Management sees him as a joke, and the nonsense continues.
This year, the mold that began in 2018 finally took over my entire bedroom. It started behind a bookcase in 2018. I have emails to management about this from Feb. 4, 2018-June 2018. After waiting four months for Prime Locations, specifically Bob Lindenbaum, to drag his feet, all they did was paint over the mold. January 2021, between water seeping into the walls, and what turned out to be a radiator with multiple holes, black mold spores were spewing all over my bedroom. Being I was finally warm, as Bob was stingy with the heat, I didn’t notice at first. But the smell was overpowering. I happened to look down under my desk, and there was black mold all across the bottom. Then I pulled away ANOTHER cabinet, and black mold was everywhere. Then I took a glimpse of my white bookcase: Not only was their mold BEHIND the bookcase, it actually ATE THROUGH the SHELVES of the BOOKCASE, as well as some out of print music books such as my Sondheim Sheet Music.
Bob finally took this seriously and called a mold inspector, who arranged for a mold remediator. Management would NOT pay for damaged belongings, or to move my belongings. “Get your friends to move your furniture and belongings”. Um, it’s a pandemic? People aren’t supposed to be coming over? They also wanted me to VACATE but refused to even give me a discount on my maintenance. “The board will discuss this at a future date”. The board is not my friend, as they will not even enforce the rules with the crazy girl below, so I have no hopes of expecting them to discount my maintenance. Thankfully, I called Traveller’s, and the hotel would be covered, minus the $500 deductible, but NOT my belongings lost: 2 bookcases, a desk, 2 chairs, the rugs, all the curtains, and blinds. They would cover paint.
Mold before remediation but after I took books off bookshelves
This was the 1st video
They threw out the rugs
2 book cases
The mold remediator company is like dealing with the Mafia. At first, they said you need to stop moving your things, unlike what the sassy assistant Deann at Prime locations said to do, as I was “cross-contaminating”. I was to BOX everything, label it: keep, clean, trash. Which I did. I told them I wanted my beautiful, expensive, and HEAVY bed saved, as well as my dresser. I asked them, even SHOWED them that my bed would squeeze in PERFECTLY between my couch and TV, as I planned to sleep on it while they closed off the bedroom. I came home after working on a cold, snowy set at midnight to find my huge bed LEANED VERTICALLY against my couch, so I could not sleep on the bed or couch, and at MIDNIGHT I was furiously moving a dresser, coffee table, and trying to put the bed on the floor so that I could sleep on it. The bed is heavy, huge, 2 mattresses, and I am just over 5ft and 98lbs. I did manage to get the bed situated, and that is how I slept for the next 10 days.
Large, loud, and energy-wasting industrial-sized HEPA filter machines were installed in both my living room and bedroom. Apparently, the one in the bedroom was “too loud” and the guy upstairs started complaining at 5 pm that the machine needed to be turned off. The mold remediates SPECIFICALLY said they had to run for 72 hours. I received a nasty email from the sassy Deann that the “loud fan” was to be turned off by sundown. I said, “what fan”? as there was a huge sign on a plastic zip door that said “MICROBIAL HAZARD! DO NOT ENTER”. She said, “the large fan in your bedroom window”. I told her the room was sealed and I was not allowed to go in there, and if she meant the the industrial-sized HEPA filter machines the Mafia Mold Remediator guys brought in, they were TOLD they had to run for 72 hours, or else the mold would return. Management kowtowed to the guy upstairs but refused to make E.M. downstairs stop drumming through the floor and harassing me after 3 years and 6 months.
Then I receive a call that I AM TO MOVE MY PERSONAL BELONGINGS (that I was told NOT TO MOVE) as they will be working in my bedroom now. Thankfully, I was home, as the worker was going to throw everything that I labeled “KEEP”, including my bedframe, into the trash. The day after, the Mafia Mold Remediator guy, who was HIRED BY PRIME LOCATIONS, not me, said, “Prime isn’t paying to move your belongings. That will be $3,200” WTF? He said he would “speak with my adjuster at Traveller’s and see if they can do something”. I told him I was already told that personal belongings are not covered in the instance of water seeping through walls. Somehow, he got her to approve a “pack out” for $3,800, so he could score himself another $3,200.
the cost will be no less than $3200 that Prime Locations refuses to pay for.
Men came with boxes with the most TOXIC tape I ever smelled, and put all my CDs and BOOKS in boxes, and I have NO IDEA what is in any box. They were supposed to come back that Monday, and I WAS TOLD TO VACATE BY MONDAY, but being there would be an ice storm on Tuesday, and I could not safely park and drive from a Yonkers hotel with black ice to my film set in Queens, I asked him to wait a few days. After many emails and calls, the Mafia Mold Remediator guy returns my call angrily and says “I’m going to charge you $1,800 for the machine rental and WALK OFF the JOB”. I said, I just need 2 days due to the weather. He agreed. I told my adjuster the next day I never wanted him in my house. Prime hired him, not me, then he shakes me down for $3,200 for “boxing and moving my things”, and even though you (traveler’s) was paying for it, it seems like a big scam. I did not appreciate being threatened to pay $1,800 as well.
On Wed, I was told the men, who I asked to come by 9am, as I had to leave for the hotel which would be my home for the next 11 days would arrive at 11 am. By 1 pm they never showed up at my apartment. I went for my run, as I had to check-in at 3 pm, and go to my long, overdue hair appointment at the Paul Mitchell School. I return from my run, and the door is wide open. I started screaming at them in both English and Spanish: How many times have I told you to LOCK THE DOORS! AND WHY DO YOU KEEP PUSHING MY SMOKE GUARD BACK out of the way? I went into my bedroom, and they put furniture against the wall that was damaged by the mold, vs on the good wall. I started screaming more. I made them put everything where it went, told them to STOP moving living room items into my bedroom, and to either keep them in the center or use the kitchen. I waited for them to leave and locked up properly, but I entrusted them the NEXT day to finish the PACK OUT. I returned on Friday to find all of my living room and dining room shrink-wrapped into the center of my living room, items piled on top of each other. On Sunday, I was so pissed off, I started moving my furniture back, even my huge couch and TV unit. I discovered 2 broken floorboards. They couldn’t put padding underneath?
I also realized, as I wiped down what was a beautiful glass table, that black soot (mold spores) and chipped glass were coming off on my cloth because they also rested heavy items without care on my glass dining room table.
When the wall was finally put back up, I have a recording of my super saying that no insulation or sealant would be used, meaning that the cycle was just going to repeat itself.
I sent another email that fell on deaf ears to Prime Locations that there were no plans to remove the rotten wood or add insulation. Being this was part of the cause of this disaster, I do not know why they would not take preventative measures while the wall is open to seal it properly and insulate it, as well as NOT remove the ROTTEN WOOD while they had the chance. I am sure this mold remediation was not cheap for them, but it was also expensive for me:
Lost time in my apt.
Extra expenses driving to and from hotel
Being displaced from my home for almost a month, and prior to that, living only in my living room.
Not to mention the fact I have been INHALING BLACK MOLD since jan 29th, and I addressed the initial MOLD to you back in 2018, from feb 4, 2018 until at least April according to these emails. This never had to happen at all.
But for Prime Locations yet again to not take preventative measures….just a teeny bit of insulation now to prevent this from happening again. I don’t understand.
I even suggested that they call my contractor to get a quote:
My contractor explains what needs to be done, key points as there are gaps, rotten wood, and water stains on the walls. 5/8 sheetrock, proper insulation, removal of rotten wood.
I told management that insulation was NOT THAT EXPENSIVE compared to us all going through this again.
For better or worse, I am moving back in today, without shades, without the walls being painted, without much of my furniture that was lost.
But buyer beware if you are buying a co-op…first check to see who manages the building. If it is Prime Locations, RUN AWAY!
One more thing, as is sadly in the case where I live. The board is both aloof and corrupt. They even allowed a woman who used to be my friend to sneak on the board without a proper vote, and now she has been acting like the ultimate “Karen”, and her daughter is a “Karen in training”. They break every house rule, allow their father/husband to smoke cigars in the garage, doors closed, give free parking keys to people who do not even live here and threaten people they don’t like. Sadly, this woman would not even HAVE her apt. if I didn’t introduce her to my lender. She was not able to afford the mortgage on both her daughter’s place, and her own, and yet turned on me like a snake.
The corrupt board and manager also cherry-pick which house rules will be followed, and if your parents are rich enough, they will allow a spoiled, disturbed 27-year old to harass you through the floor and in the hallways for 3 and a half years with loud parties, screaming, and “drum sounds” aimed at the ceiling (my floor).
A co-op board is the most legal way to discriminate against someone as well.
Technically, one would think your financial well-being should be all that matters. But a co-op board can fail someone “just because they don’t like them”. As an agent, I once had a couple that had over 3,000,000 in assets, but the board “failed them” just because they couldn’t relate to the couple. Sadly, they “do not have to tell you why”.
There is also the dreaded “flip tax” when you sell. Most co-ops, if they have one, it is under 5%. In my building, it is 10%! Hence, I have no plans of redoing the kitchen for a sale, because it would drive up the price and I would not really see a profit. Plus, knowing all I have gone through, I would have to sell “as-is” with “no warranties”.
Not only should you find a good agent who really understands the co-op process, but try and get feedback about the health of the building, its financials, its management company, as well as the board.
I will be returning as a real estate agent soon in NY, so feel free to reach out with any questions.
Kama Linden is a singer-songwriter with 4 studio albums, the newest being, “Everything In Good Time”, releasing in Summer 2020. She is also an actress, fitness instructor, freelance photographer, and has a fitness book: “Healthy Things You Can Do In Front Of The TV”.