When you buy a home in a co-op building, you may be ruling monarch of your own castle, but here's the thing you can never forget: It sits right on top of other people's castles. So you gotta follow some rules. Lots of rules.
Most co-op regulations are simple, common sense -- but a surprising number of others can feel a tad antiquated, quirky, or just plain weird.
Here are some of the weirder ones we've seen lately. If you find any of these in your own co-op rule book, either follow and laugh or ignore (at your own risk).
Manhattan Realtor Ogden Starr has seen her fair share of odd co-op rules, but the weirdest is one that sounds downright anti-Asian if you ask us.
"I just found a building the other day with a no-wok policy," she says. "You can use a frying pan, but you can't use a wok." Luckily, the building does not prohibit Chinese takeout.
No TV watching without headphones
"When I moved into the building, I liked the fact that it was quiet, which the board reinforced during my interview," recalls one Manhattan resident named Kristi P. "What I didn't realize was that 'quiet peaceful enjoyment' -- as stated in the bylaws -- actually translated into a requirement for me to wear headphones while watching television, which was diligently enforced! After three years, the building is still the quietest I have ever experienced and I no longer live there."
Your dog must do an interview
While co-op rules are often strict regarding whether dogs are allowed in the building, New York real estate lawyer Steven Wagner told The New York Times that his co-op is open to canines -- only if the pooch submits to an interview with the board first. "It's a funny rule," Wagner said. "I'm never sure what to ask. I just say: 'Nice doggy,' and I pet the dog. And then I say, 'I have no more questions.' No dog has bitten me yet. I think that would be a problem."
No 'unreasonable cooking'
The Troy Towers apartments in Union City, NJ, offer beautiful views of the Hudson River, fine amenities such as a seasonal pool, and the following odd rule in their online co-op rule book: No "unreasonable cooking." So what constitutes "unreasonable? It's hard to say, but that 4 a.m. sauteed tripe sandwich craving sounds like it could carry some serious consequences.
No welcome mats
What could be wrong with a welcome mat? Well, according to the nyc co-op and condo blog, many co-ops' fire codes ban doormats because they present a slipping/tripping hazard in case of a building fire. We kinda get it, but it sounds so unwelcoming.
No flip-flops in the lobby
We can almost understand the welcome mats. But no flip-flops in the lobby? Is this just a ploy to keep casually dressed riffraff at bay?
No neighborly chats lasting over two hours
In a co-op on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, there was an elderly woman who loved to linger in her co-op lobby, reading and talking to the kids. Nice, right? Wrong! It turns out some shareholders didn't like it, and they passed a rule prohibiting lobby conversations that exceeded two hours. "It was passed," Steven Sladkus, a real estate litigator at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, told the Times. But later on residents took pity and the rule was rescinded.
Iguanas can't eat where they swim
In Fort Lee, NJ, 1 Century City Apartment Corp. welcomes pets, even reptiles, with open arms. But if you bring your pet iguana to the pool, you'd better make sure Iggy's eaten first. The co-op's pet policy states that "Birds, reptiles, dogs, cats, or any animal may not be fed at the pool area." That's probably to keep pet food from contaminating the pool. Luckily iguanas don't like swimming after they eat anyway.
No dirty windows
Not religious about cleaning your windows? Then don't move into North Shore Towers and Country Club in Floral Park, NY, where rule No. 23 states that, "The Lessee shall keep the windows of the apartment clean." If not, the building will hire someone to wash your windows and stick you with the bill. Man, these people take clean windows seriously.
And quit blasting that phonograph
Sometimes the co-op rules may have made sense when they were first implemented a century ago; what's odd is that some of these rules are still on the books.
"The house rules at one of my previous co-ops were really funny," recalls Sally Jones of Queens, NY, a board member at her former Brooklyn co-op. Such as? No phonograph playing. To wit: "No Lessee shall play upon or suffer to be played upon any musical instrument or permit to be operated a phonograph." Jones set about updating these rules, but not without some wisecracks first: "It might as well have been a Victrola."