The co-op board application process is an often-dreaded one, but it's important to remember that it ensures the integrity of the community and financial health of the building the Board has worked years to develop. Knowing who to ask and what information to include is the first step in creating strong reference letters that are key to a successful co-op application, so we’ve broken down the do’s and don’ts in this quick guide.
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DO treat it as a professional document.
Formatting and tone are important in a reference letter, so if any part of it reads less-than-professional, it’s best to ask your colleague or friend to amend it. A safe general standard to follow is: if you wouldn’t send it to your boss, you shouldn’t send it to a co-op board. Take the time to format it and ask your source to write it on letterhead, especially if they’re a colleague.
DON’T use family members as references.
In most cases, including a family member as a reference doesn’t pass the test; the potential for bias and conflicting interests are just too strong. For this reason, most co-op boards won’t accept reference letters from family members.
DO select other co-op members and apartment owners.
Whenever possible, choose a reference who owns an apartment themselves, particularly if they also live in a co-op building. Their experience with the application process and living in a co-op will have taught them what should be said in the letter, and they can speak to how you will handle the duties expected of a co-op shareholder.
DON’T choose new acquaintances over long-term relationships.
While current coworkers and business associates are the strongest references, choosing people who have known you for at least a few years gives the Board a better picture of your life and speaks to your personal stability—exactly the information they’re after. If you’ve worked with your current professional community for less than a year, it’s appropriate to instead contact your former boss or colleagues who have known you longer.
DO remember it’s a reference and not a rave.
The best letters of reference are positive without being particularly memorable. Whether from a professional or personal source, the main themes to highlight are your reliability, respectfulness, and positive influence on your community.
DON’T get too personal.
Love to cook? Play an instrument? Host family and friends for holidays? While all these attributes are personally positive, each could be used as a reason to reject your application (cooking can be smelly, instruments and visiting family can be noisy). An anecdotal example of respectful or reliable behavior is ideal, but don’t allow references to give the Board specific hobbies or personal effects to include in their judgement.