And unlike condo common charges, a percentage of co-op maintenance is usally tax deductible, bringing the two very much in line.
Furthermore, the liberal rental policy of condo buildings can be a large disadvantage if you are concerned about who your neighbors are. Condo owners can rent out their apartments virtually at will, whereas co-op subtenants have to be approved by the board and the term of the sublease is usually limited.
So it really all depends on what you, as a buyer, are looking for. Condos are better for some people and co-ops for others. Anyone's best bet in this siutation is to have a discussion about the pros and cons of both forms of ownership with a real estate broker.
It is important to understand the nature of a co-op situation. You actually do not own your apartment. You own shares in the entire building with rights to occupy your apartment. In essence, everyone owns the walls in your apartment and ergo have rights to decide what goes in those walls. Also they have the right to determine/approve any plans you have to remodel. As to the electrical work you want done, whether you agree or not, you have also legally contracted with this electrical company via your Co-op board. And when that Co-Op board decides to make a major infrastructure improvement like replacing the windows in your apartment, they have the rights to do that and charge you a surcharge in your maintenance fee regardless of your ability to pay. You can also be held financially liable for any law suits against your Co-op. Such as a trip and fall on the sidewalk outside.
I am surprised that your real estate agent did not at some point explain this to you. And if you have already purchased, somewhere you were handed a copy of the propectus on the Co-op which should include all the information you require on your co-op board.
Co-Ops can be less expensive to purchase, but once you add in the potential for liabilities, the fact that your neighbors have decision making power in your apartment, and the ever skyrocketing maintenance fees, in the long run they are probably not a good financial plan.
All co-ops and most condos do have this type of rule; most require that a licensed, bonded, and insured electrician be used for all such work (and some do actually specify the firm); this is necessary for the building's insurance policy. Condos do generally have fewer rules overall, so you may be better off looking to buy a condo versus a co-op.
Not only do you have to obey this rule, you actually have to obey all of the rules. If you don't like the rules, you should sell and join a co-op where you do like the rules.
Some of the management require a certain company to do work especially when it is an attached condo/ apartment or town home. The reason is that there were cases in the past where homeowners want to save money and so they get cheap labor. However, if the job is not done right, any thing that arise for example fire, would not only effect you, but others who share the same walls with you. If they have written regulation on this, then all residents there need to abide to that. I know it may cost more, but usually they require that for safety reasons.