Everything you need to know about local law 11 in NYC

Today, almost every condo or co-op board member or any board manager is knowledgeable about Local Law 11 inspections. Before Local Law 11, there was Local Law 10. These laws were enacted to ensure the safety of building facades as well as protect pedestrians walking below. There are now thousands of buildings in New York City that are subject to Local Law 11.

Like most laws and regulations that we get to enjoy today, Local Law 10 and 11 were both prompted by some form of tragedy. For instance, Local Law 10 was approved and signed into law after a Barnard College student died after a piece of terra cotta fell from a building in May of 1979. The law was passed by the then Mayor, Ed Koch.

The law made it a must for the facades of buildings with more than six stories to be inspected after every five years by a licensed architect or engineer and thereafter be certified as safe. If the architect or engineer noted any serious defects, they had to be corrected and then the building had to be inspected a second time.

Later on, there were other accidents – such as the death of a 16-year-old student who was struck by a falling brick, a shower of debris that fell on Madison Avenue from an office building and a parapet that collapsed in the back of a building – that necessitated the need to beef up Local Law 10. This resulted in the passing of Local Law 11 in 1998. This would later be changed to Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) even though people still refer to it as Local Law 11.

How Does Local Law 11 Affect an NYC Homeowner?

FISP requires that property owners with buildings that have more than six stories have their appurtenances and exterior walls inspected every five years. In addition, they need to file a technical building façade report with the Department of Buildings in New York City. So far, between 2010 and 2015, 13,500 buildings filed for Local Law 11 which means it has a huge impact on the city. Since it’s commonly known as Local Law 11, that’s what we’ll use in the remaining of this post.

If as a homeowner you live in a building that has six or fewer stories, then you don’t need to deal with the law as Local Law 11 only affects buildings with more than six stories. However, residents living in buildings that have more than six stories should be aware of the inspections that happen every five years.

There are different reasons why scaffolding is usually put up in New York City. However, Local Law 11 is a key influence for most of the installations. Besides, no inspection can be done overnight. While scaffolding has its benefits, there are also some disadvantages such as how disruptive the removal of the scaffolding structure can be. In addition, people living on the lower floors may have sunlight blocked from getting into their apartment.

Because the inspection of buildings that are more than six stories is done every five years, there is a cost attached to the law. Although residents may not pay directly, the cost is part of their monthly maintenance of common charges. Besides, it’s not cheap. The inspection costs also vary depending on the type of building materials, size of the building as well as other factors.
It is reported that a Local Law 11 inspection will cost anything from several hundred dollars to more than a million. Apart from those heavy inspection costs, if a building fails to file for the inspection, there is a $265 filing fee that will be charged by the city with the penalties increasing rapidly. Although these expenses are paid once every five years, it’s still a whole lot of money.

What Happens During a Local Law 11 Inspection?

Local law 11 inspections are carried out by a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI). For one to attain the QEWI status, they must either be a licensed architect or engineer. For inspection in New York City, it has to be done by a New York State Registered Architect or then a New York State licensed Professional Engineer who has at least a year’s experience.

The QEWI inspector is required to carry out a critical examination of the pertinent sides of the building. Usually, they look out for loose bricks, bulging masonry, cracks or any other signs that show that the façade may be deteriorating. Use of additional tools could also determine whether there are unseen issues present under the surface.

After an inspection, the inspector has three designations to pick from – Safe, Unsafe or Safe with a Repair and Maintenance Program (SWARMP). If a building is classified as Safe, there will be no need to do any work. A building that is marked Unsafe means that there is a problem that needs to be fixed immediately. Typically, the property owner is required to act within 30 days bit of there is the need for additional time, the QEWI can file for 90 days.

SWARMP buildings mean that while they are safe and don’t present any immediate danger to pedestrians, there are issues that still issues that came up and that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Lack of addressing the issues identified in buildings marked as SWARMP before the next inspection will automatically result in the building getting penalized by the Department of Buildings.

Filing of Local Law 11 Report

After the inspection of a building, the QEWI is usually the person that needs to file a report with the Department of Building using their system. It’s a must that the report gets filed within 60 days after the final inspection. After the QEWI has filed the report, the Department of Buildings will still send their own inspector to certify what has been filed or see if there were any issues that the QEWI might have overlooked.

Local Law 11 in New York City is also done in cycles. Every five years there is a new cycle that starts. In 2018, Local Law 11 is in its eight cycles. These cycles see buildings get separated into three different sub-cycles that determine when their facades will be inspected. This is done by using the last digit of the building’s block number. There is a two-year window to have each sub-cycle conduct an inspection so as to enable buildings to have flexibility and prevent unserviceable spikes for QEWI demands.
Newly constructed buildings will get a pass for five years after they have been given the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, but after the five year period, they have to observe the next scheduled cycle.

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