By Andrew Pisani
The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has announced the end of the Special Enforcement Program, known as the SEP Unit, which handled professional certification audits and inspections.
A Brief Background
The SEP unit was established more than 10 years ago because architects and engineers were signing off on self-certified jobs without actually visiting the site to verify completion of work as per their approved plans. Whether due to sheer laziness on the part of some design professionals or to some other reason, DOB established the SEP Unit because they were receiving too many complaints.
The SEP Unit was centralized in Queens. All self-certified jobs filed in the four boroughs went to SEP for review, and spot inspections were conducted at sign-off time. (Initially, Manhattan was part of the program, but political pressure later excluded Manhattan.)
Initially, the program was set up to spot-check 10% of all self-certified jobs filed. That number was later bumped up to 100%. Honest architects and engineers stopped filing self-certified jobs because they were getting caught up in the SEP audit, which caused additional expense and sign-off delays for their clients. They did not want the hassle.
The drop-off in self-certified filings resulted in significant downtime for SEP examiners. At this time, DOB decided to add all non-self-certified Directive 14 Alteration Type 2 applications as well. The SEP Unit would review the plans, and, depending on the complexity of the filing, they would determine if an inspection was warranted before issuing the Letter of Completion at sign-off.
That Was Then . . .
As of February 3, 2020, SEP Unit will no longer exist. The DOB has not released a statement explaining the reasons for disbanding the program, but we will update you when they do.
In the meantime, the 6,000-plus open audit applications now in the SEP Unit will all be sent back to their respective DOB borough offices to decide what to do with them—a big problem, if you are looking to get your job signed off. All returned folders will have to get reassigned to new examiners and new inspectors.
Let’s hope you do not have a mortgage pending or a closing on your multimillion-dollar apartment waiting on a sign-off stuck in this new black hole.
If you have any questions about these changes or if you need assistance, please contact Metropolis Group at 212.233.6344.