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The parking spot we bought in our new condo building is too small. The developer won’t help. What can we do?

When we bought our Brooklyn condo we also purchased an underground parking spot. That was a year before the garage was completed and now we find the space is too narrow when another car is parked next to ours. We are struggling to resolve this with the development’s sponsor. What should we do?

“There are minimum size requirements for parking spots so, in this case, the first step is to measure the space that’s been allocated,” says New York City real estate attorney Steven Wagner, a partner at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. who represents co-op and condo boards and owners.

Parking spots are highly regulated by zoning requirements and building codes. In addition, the size requirements vary depending on whether the parking garage is self-service or attended. It may be that the sponsor identified the garage as attended.

“A parking space is required to be one width for self service and they can be a lot narrower if the garage is attended,” Wagner says. Also, with self-service parking, not only do the spaces have to be wider but the area you have to reverse and maneuver in order to park is larger too. “So developers can fit in a lot more spaces with attended parking,” Wagner says.

You will want to take a careful look at the offering plan. This document is the blueprint for the building and will identify whether the sponsor is trying to max out the number of parking spaces beyond what was originally drafted or whether the garage has been designated as attended.

Attended or self-service parking

An attended parking garage does not mean someone is always on hand to park your car for you or a parking company is brought in to supervise. Wagner says it could just mean that there is a designated person in the building who has keys.

“Some buildings designate the super as the parking attendant and that satisfies the attended parking rules, allowing more spaces in the garage,” Wagner says.

He points out, it is not uncommon for developers, particularly in Brooklyn, to pack in parking spaces in their garages and treat them as if there were attended parking when in fact there are no attendants.

Certificate of occupancy issues

As well as looking at the offering plan and measuring the parking spaces, you will want to check the building’s certificate of occupancy (known also as the C of O).

The C of O identifies how a building can be used and how the building is zoned. It may also identify the number of parking spaces the condo’s sponsor must provide for residents. “It becomes complicated because if you want to change the number of spaces you may end up violating the law on the requirements for the building,” Wagner says.

If you are trying to increase the number of parking spots, the size and distance between the spaces needs to meet the legal requirements. “If you are not in compliance with the C of O or a zoning variance that specifies the number of parking spaces, any changes to the C of O will likely be delayed until the issue is resolved,” Wagner says.

In addition to the C of O, there are also plans filed with the Department of Buildings showing the layout of the parking spaces. “It could be that the developers have too many spaces compared to what was submitted,” Wagner says.

If there has been a misrepresentation in the offering plan, you can go to the Attorney General’s office. Wagner recommends getting legal representation before you proceed.

“If the plan is misleading you will have recourse but you have to be careful,” Wagner says. The sponsor may have been able to get more apartments in the building because they had off-street parking and if you reduce the number of parking spots because it is not attended, the building may wind up not being in compliance with the C of O. So you could end up creating an even bigger problem.

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