It’s not easy keeping a building up to code in New York City. The city is home to tens of thousands of residential buildings, and no two are exactly the same. (You can see all of the buildings in Manhattan broken down by category with this mapping tool). Elevator buildings, two-family homes, and mixed-use rentals all face different legal regulations and codes. It’s enough to give you vertigo!
If you’re a condo/co-op board member, you’ve probably spent some time wondering how to avoid local law violations. If you’ve been stressing out over this, don’t worry! We have you covered. We put together a list of the ten most important New York City local laws for building owners. We’ve also explained how you can reduce your risk and avoid any legal troubles. Because we believe that there’s nothing more relaxing than being prepared.
What are the Most Important Residential Building Local Laws?
- Local Law 152: Gas Inspection Covers the requirements for gas pipeline inspection and reporting, and where the building’s responsibilities lie.
- Local Law 11: FISP Covers the façade inspection and safety program, as well as the reporting duties of building owners.
- Local Law 147: Smoking Policy Covers the laws on building-wide smoking policies and the disclosure of regulations around smoking.
- Local Law 195: Fire Protection/Evacuation Plan Covers fire alarms and fire protection plans, as well as the reporting of those matters.
- Local Law 55: Indoor Health Hazards Covers the procedure for treating vermin, roaches, and other indoor allergen hazards in residential buildings.
- Local Law 97: Buildings Emissions Law Covers requirements for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Local Law 154: Construction on a Residential Building Covers requirements when construction or repairs are being carried out in a building where people are living.
- Local Law 87: Energy Audits and Retrofitting Covers requirements for reporting on, and addressing, energy efficiency in residential buildings.
- Local Laws 92 and 94: Sustainable Roof Zones Covers the requirements for creating a sustainable roof zone and the conditions that would mandate such a zone.
- BLC 727: Preventing Conflict of Interest Covers the reporting requirements for co-op board members to prove that they have no conflict of interest.
We’ll dive into each one of these laws and discuss the best practices for preventing violations, and the best means of being proactive about compliance.
Residential buildings in New York must have their gas piping systems regularly inspected by either a Licensed Master Plumber or a qualified individual working under the supervision of a Licensed Master Plumber. These inspections must be carried out at least once every four years according to the city’s timetable.
The process sounds stressful, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. The inspector will report back to you within 30 days, providing a Gas Piping System Periodic Inspection Report. If the report shows that everything is in order, great! Just submit a Gas Piping System Periodic Inspection Certification, signed and sealed by the inspector, to the Department of Buildings (DOB) within 60 days of the inspection.
If the inspector finds issues that need to be corrected, don’t panic. You’ll have 120 days to make the repairs and submit an Inspection Certificate confirming that the corrections have been carried out. In some cases, you may qualify for an extension so that you’ll have 180 days to complete and certify the corrections.
Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP)
All buildings that are more than six stories tall are required to have their facades, or external walls, inspected every five years to ensure that they are safe and do not pose a danger to passersby. Loose pieces of masonry could otherwise potentially fall and injure people or property. Nobody wants that!
As a co-op or condo board member, you’ll have to make sure that your building files a report (known as the FISP report) with the Department of Buildings, proving that you had your façade inspection done correctly.
Now, we get into the bureaucratic part. You’ll need to submit your FISP reports electronically, through the online portal called NOW: Safety on the Department of Buildings site. There is a slightly complex procedure involved in filing the reports. After the form is submitted, the Department of Buildings will conduct an Administrative Review and then a Plan Examiner Review. At the conclusion, the department will either accept or reject the report.
You’ll also need to pay meticulous attention to details and make sure that you file the correct documents along with clear, color photographs and/or sketches to have your report accepted. For more information, we have a thorough guide on local law 11 here.
Any residential building with at least three units is required to create a policy on smoking in the building and share that policy with the building’s residents.
In practice, this means that the owners must decide exactly where smoking is and is not allowed. Be as specific as you can here. Can residents enjoy a late-night smoke on their balconies? How about in the courtyard? Is vaping okay, if cigarettes are not? Spell it all out in your policy.
According to New York City law, your building does not have to be smoke-free. However, you do have the right to ban smoking if that’s what makes sense for your building. The law is mostly concerned with clarity. The smoking policy must be included in all documents for the sale of residential units, including in co-ops and condos. Co-op buildings may choose to survey their residents to find out what kind of policy most of the residents prefer (you can find a sample survey, produced by the Department of Housing here).
In the past, building owners were required to file jointly with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and the Department of Buildings regarding their fire alarm systems, fire protection plans, and fire suppression systems. However, as of 2019, the law changed and now building owners can file directly with the FDNY.
Because of this change, the process is a bit easier! You’ll get an account number when you file the forms, and that number, known as the FPIMS number, will be used to track filings.
Forms related to Emergency Planning and Preparedness are still filed with the FDNY. Under the new law, these forms must now be filed online through the FDNY Business site. They may not be submitted in person or sent in by mail or email.
Indoor Health Allergens
Building owners are required to keep residences free from indoor allergen hazards like mice, cockroaches, rats, and mold. Yes, we’d all like to think that our buildings will never face pests or mold. But, this is New York City and you really do need to be careful.
In the past, there has been some confusion about whether Local Law 55, which establishes the rules for dealing with indoor allergen hazards, does in fact apply to co-ops and condos. However, the city has issued a memo clarifying that it does, and co-op boards are advised to comply with the regulations.
A lot of this law is common sense. Buildings must do annual inspections on all units to look for pests and mold, and building owners must respond promptly to any complaints from residents.
Whenever an apartment is vacated, it must be thoroughly cleaned for pests and mold before a new tenant can move in.
If your building has a pest infestation, you must address the problem with Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. That means removing pest nests and cleaning all pest waste, preferable with a HEPA vacuum. You’ll need to seal up all holes and cracks in the walls, ceilings, floors, molding, baseboards, and around pipes and cabinets. You’ll also need to make sure that drains and faucets are in good repair.
If there is mold exceeding 10 square feet, you’ll need to hire a mold assessor and remediator licensed by the New York State Department of Labor.
Buildings Emissions Law
Local Law 97 was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for buildings in New York City. The law applies to most buildings that measure over 25,000 feet. They will now be required to meet goals for reducing their emissions and becoming energy efficient by 2024. The goals increase gradually, becoming stricter in 2030. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the emissions on large buildings by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
Wondering what you can do? First, determine whether your building is subject to the law. Generally speaking, if you are subject to the NYC Benchmarking Law, you will also be subject to this law.
The Urban Green Council recommends that you reduce emissions by cutting your energy expenditure. Much of the time, that will mean investing in a more energy-efficient heating, lighting, and cooling system for your building. Building owners can also carry out an energy audit to see where energy is being wasted.
It's common for buildings to carry out construction or major repairs while residents are still living in the building. Elevators need to be repaired or replaced; the roof needs work. The law aims to keep everyone safe and informed when work is going on.
Building owners (and co-op boards) are required to inform residents about the construction work. They are also required to create and share a plan to protect residents. In practice, that means that owners must either post or distribute a notice form explaining the purpose of the construction and how long it is expected to take.
Building owners must also give the Department of Buildings notice in writing before they start any major construction work or repairs on their building. Owners may use the online notification form which is located on the DOB’s website.
Energy Audits and Retrofitting
All residential buildings that are larger than 50,000 square feet must carry out regular energy audits and, where relevant, retrofitting to comply with Local Law 87 and the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan.
Building owners are required to conduct regular energy audits to determine how much energy the building is using and how well the building is performing. The audits must be carried out by a registered architect or licensed engineer, or by a Department of Buildings-registered auditor or retro commissioner.
The due date for your audit is determined by the last digit of your building’s tax block number.
The City of New York may issue a fine of $3,000 for the first year that you fail to file your energy audit. The fine will reach $5,000 for each additional year. You will not be able to hand in your outstanding energy audits until you have paid your fines in full. So, it’s best to stay on top of this sooner than later!
Rooftop Sustainability Practices
If you are carrying out repairs to your rooftop, you may be required to build in sustainability measures.
Whenever building owners replace an existing roof deck or roof assembly, they must also provide a sustainable roofing zone that will cover the entirety of the roof. The sustainable roof must include either a solar-paneled or solar photovoltaic system – which is to generate at least 4kW – or a green roof system.
A green roof system is an add-on to your roof which features living plants that grow in a waterproof, root repellent system, complete with a drainage system and filter cloth. The whole system must, of course, be designed so that it does not add excess weight to the building or interfere with the functioning of the building. The goal behind a green roof is to provide insulation and to help cool down the city — ideal for combating those unbearable NYC summer days and for complying with Local Law 97.
Plus, it’s great for the planet and your wallet. Adding a green roof can cut back on your building’s energy use, saving you money. You may also qualify for some rebates or abatements by adding sustainable roofing. The city can award you up to $1,000 or the property taxes due in that year.
You may also qualify for an abatement by adding solar panels to your roof. New York City’s Department of Buildings is responsible for determining eligibility. Moreover, properties currently receiving 421a, 421bv, or 421g abatements are not automatically ineligible.
Avoiding Conflict of Interest
New York Business Corporation Law (BCL) requires that co-op and condo boards make an annual disclosure to their shareholder and unit owners, detailing any contracts or deals in which a board member was an interested party.
BCL section 727 also requires directors and board members to disclose any contracts between the board and board members, as well as the purpose of the contract.
These disclosures must be distributed to the building’s unit owners and shareholders once a year.
New York City’s local laws are complex, and they change often enough to make your head spin. Every year there are new laws passed as well as amendments to existing laws. Keeping a building up to code is a difficult task.
That’s why condo and co-op boards are working with us, Daisy, a New York City property management company that does things differently. We proactively monitor building health, ensuring that buildings are fully up to code.
We believe when property managers and board members are empowered with the right technology, they can achieve more together. This way, property managers can focus on what really matters and board members have visibility and control over everything that happens in their building. Visit us today to learn more about what we can do for you.