If you're already a proud property owner or board member in New York City or looking to become one, chances are you've stumbled upon the Facade Inspection Safety Program – formerly known as Local Law 11. But what in the world is Local Law 11, and what does it mean for you?
In New York City, owning a condo or co-op involves many responsibilities you might be unfamiliar with. It requires maintaining the building and staying up to date with the various local codes and laws. In short, Local Law 11 regulates the frequency of facade inspections in all buildings taller than 6 stories. Here's all you need to know about it:
Everything you need to know about Local Law 11
New York City is known for its unmistakable skyline crowded with high-rise buildings. Today, more than 14,000 of them are subject to Local Law 11's inspection protocols.
Just like the Empire State Building, Local Law 11 is a born-and-raised New Yorker. Currently known as the Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), this regulation mandates that owners of buildings taller than 6 stories ensure all exterior walls and appurtenances of their property get an inspection every five years.
You might be wondering, “What the heck is an ‘appurtenance’?” Basically, it's any attachment to your building’s facade. That includes all exterior fixtures, signs, flagpoles, copings, guard rails, parapets, window frames, flower boxes, window A/C units and balcony enclosures.
As per local codes, a facade or a building's face refers to a building’s exterior walls and windows. This doesn’t only include the front of the building but also any side of construction that runs along the street or sidewalk where people pass regularly. When facade pieces made of concrete, brick or any other construction materials fall from a certain height (typically more than 6 stories), there could unsurprisingly be horrifying consequences — think severe injury and even death.
The general terms for facade inspections in New York City are enclosed in Article 302 of Title 28 of the NYC Administrative Code – aka Maintenance of Exterior Walls. The RCNY §103-04 Periodic Inspection of Exterior Walls and Appurtenances (DOB Rule 103-04) outlines:
- Inspection conditions
- Reporting requirements
After a facade inspection, a technical report needs to be filed with the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) to document whether facade elements are:
- Safe: Everything is in good condition, and there are no apparent issues with the facade.
- Safe with a repair and maintenance program (SWARMP): The facade requires repairs as recorded within one to five years. Taking timely measures will prevent the building from being classified as unsafe in the next cycle.
- Unsafe: The facade has severe defects or obvious issues that significantly threaten public safety. It requires immediate attention and public protection (like a sidewalk shed) until properly repaired.
When facade elements are deemed hazardous, the issues must be addressed right away and repaired within 30 days of the inquiry. This regulation’s main goal, perhaps obviously, is to make sure pedestrians are not at risk of being hit by falling concrete, bricks or other facade materials as they walk down the street.
If the FISP report concludes the facade is safe, you won't need to take immediate action when it comes to facade work during the corresponding cycle. Facades designated as SWARMP, however, can potentially become unsafe, so you'll need to keep them up to the appropriate standards. The qualified exterior wall inspector will decide a deadline for you to rectify any risky conditions and let you know in the technical report.
Why is Local Law 11 so important?
Local Law 11 was an update to Local Law 10, the original measure passed by the Mayor’s office in 1980 to address pedestrian safety shortly after a piece of masonry fell from the facade of an Upper West Side building located at 115th and Broadway. The incident resulted in the death of a college freshman who was walking by and it ignited the discussion on how to prevent the safety risks posed by deteriorating facades. As a result, Local Law 10 was the first city statute exclusively designed to protect people by addressing these issues.
Eventually, Local Law 11 replaced and broadened this city ordinance. It was proclaimed in 1998 by City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and included much stricter inspection requirements after several public safety issues occurred. After a partial building collapse on Madison Avenue, it became clear that additional efforts needed to be made to ensure pedestrian safety.
Before Local Law 11, only the front facade and all side walls up to 24 feet from the street needed examination. This statute mandated that all four sides of a building required physical inspection from scaffolding unless 12 inches or less from a neighboring construction. It also amended the categorization in the reports, substituting the vague "pass" or "fail" for the aforementioned. and slightly less ambiguous, "safe," "safe with a repair and maintenance program," or "unsafe."
Local Law 11 was designed to guarantee that potential hazards from decaying buildings that require urgent repair and maintenance would be addressed right away. In recent years, FISP emerged as a measure to further enhance the overall effectiveness of the facade repair initiative and increase safety for all NYC residents.
Be proactive with building maintenance
Owners, boards, and building managers must always stay on top of your deadlines to avoid unpleasant surprises. Buildings in New York City have overlapping two-year windows for filing for FISP. Properties are also grouped according to the last digit of their block number. The easiest way to explain it would be with this chart, and yes, we agree that whoever made this plan must definitely hate people!
Block ending with: File between:
4, 5, 6, 9 February 21, 2020- February 21, 2022
0, 7, 8 February 21, 2021- February 21, 2023
1, 2, 3 February 21, 2022- February 21, 2024
The DOB charges those filing a $425 fee per new FISP report, amended report, or subsequent report. They certainly have no problem taking your money. And, for those who leave things for the last possible minute, the DOB could even charge a $305 fee for filing for a 90-day extension to repair an unsafe facade.
As if all those fees weren’t enough to worry about, if you are cited with violations, your building will incur fees. The most common are:
- Late Filing: $1,000 per month
- Failure to File an Initial Report: $5,000 per year
- Failure to correct SWARMP conditions: $2,000
Failing to correct unsafe conditions can result in yet even more penalties as described below:
Delay: Base Penalty: Plus
1 year $1,000/month -
2 years $1,000/month $10/linear foot of shed a month
3 years $1,000/month $20/linear foot of shed a month
4 years $1,000/month $30/linear foot of shed a month
5 years $1,000/month $40/linear foot of shed a month
How Local Law 11 affects the value of your building
The FISP is designed to protect pedestrians from getting injured or killed by falling pieces of debris. But while keeping up with this local law might be a not-so-glamorous part of being a property owner or board member, it can be beneficial for you in the long run. If you think about it, these regulations force you to keep your building in the best possible condition — not going to lie here. Doing so is great for business!
Tenants and potential unit buyers are naturally more attracted to a well-maintained building regardless of how old it is. If you want to list your property for rent or sale, having it look its best will only increase your chances of closing the deal fast.
Additionally, regular upkeep is a lot more cost-effective than waiting until your facade is severely damaged and unsafe. That's our strategy — you can read more about that in our predictive maintenance article. Proactively and strategically maintaining and upgrading your building, and small repairs here and there are much easier on the budget than a whole makeover all at once when your facade is falling apart.
How to avoid local law 11 violations
Inspection time can be rightfully overwhelming for property owners and board members. To get ready for a FISP examination, follow a few preventative measures to keep your building in top condition before the qualified exterior wall inspector knocks on your door, and on your building.
- Make available all information regarding your building's age as well as the additions and alterations it has endured.
- Maintain thorough records of all exterior repairs and pertinent permits. Include drawings or pictures when possible as a form of reference.
- Ensure all areas of your building are accessible.
- Remove debris and items from roofs, terraces, balconies and fire escapes. And yes, that includes your favorite climbing plant!
- Clear the clutter for the inspector's photographic evidence.
- Move random items from access and egress areas.
- Keep all hardware present, operational and well-attached.
- Make sure all exterior fixtures are securely anchored and properly installed.
- Have the building staff verify all window A/C units, and ensure they're installed with an exterior bracket or interior angle.
On the day of the examination, have the superintendent guide the inspector through the property. This will allow them to better understand the specialist's point of view, ask questions and provide useful information regarding the building's condition to all board members to ensure all requirements are met in the future.
Keep in mind some facade materials are more prone to damage by the elements over time, just like some teeth are more prone to plaque. Stay on top of your facade maintenance if the cladding features:
- Terra cotta
- Joint materials
- Metal parts
Stay ahead of the curve
Since the early 80s, the city of New York has been committed to preventing facade-related hazards and keeping the streets and their pedestrians safe from falling debris. FISP, a much-needed evolution to the well-known Local Laws 10 and 11, ensures all NYC constructions are properly maintained to keep accidents at bay.
How we can help
FISP and its implications can be a lot to keep track of, but you don't have to deal with it all by yourself. At Daisy, we can help you navigate the murky waters of facade maintenance. We employ predictive maintenance integrated with automated maintenance calendars and compliance trackers. That makes it so much easier for us – and board members – to keep buildings healthy and up to code on things like Local Law 11.
So, if you’re not sure if your building meets all Local Law 11 requirements or any other laws, or you just think your building could be better taken care of, we’re happy to help! Visit our website to learn more about Daisy.