New Local Law for Façade Inspections Is Now in Effect

New Local Law for Façade Inspections Is Now in Effect

By Andrew Pisani

After the tragic events that killed prominent New York City architect Erica Tishman in December 2019 and 67-year-old Xiang Ji the following month in Queens, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has amended the requirements of Local Law 11 effective February 20, 2020. The updated law went into effect one day before the start of the required Cycle 9 façade reports, which began on February 21, 2020.

New Façade Inspection Requirements

Some of the new rules include:

1)   New requirements regarding the experience and responsibilities of the Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI) to ensure inspectors have appropriate knowledge of exterior walls and how to conduct inspections of those walls.

2)   Expanded list of who can perform inspection tasks.

3)   A new requirement that owners post and maintain the building façade status in the lobby in a manner similar to elevator certificates, alerting the building occupants of the exterior wall status.

4)   A new requirement for close-up inspections to be performed at intervals of not more than 60’-0” fronting each public right-of-way to allow for more thorough inspections of the exterior wall.

5)   Clarification of which façade elevations are required to have close-up inspections.

6)   A new requirement that the QEWI probes whether ties are present and in good condition at cavity wall buildings in every odd cycle, a response to recent failures of cavity walls due to missing or deficient ties.

7)   Additional exceptions to the requirement for probes.

8)   Required photographic evidence of close-up inspections in progress to guard against false filings.

9)   Increased civil penalties so that penalties reflect the increased responsibilities of building owners.

10) New civil penalty for failure to correct “safe with a repair and maintenance program” (SWARMP) conditions to compel owners to maintain exterior walls in a safe condition.

11) Modified criteria for waiving civil penalties.

12) Plain language revisions throughout.

Penalties for Noncompliance

Comments received at the public hearing on December 30, 2019, favored the DOB taking additional enforcement actions against noncompliant owners by increasing penalties from those in the proposed rule. In response, the penalty for failure to file is increasing from $2,000 to $5,000, and the monthly penalty for late filing is doubled.

In addition, an owner who fails to correct an unsafe condition will be liable for a monthly civil penalty (outlined below) until the unsafe condition is corrected and filed with the DOB.

Base penalties

Year 1                          $1,000 per month

Year 2                          $1,000, plus $10 per linear foot of shed, per month

Year 3                          $1,000, plus $20 per linear foot of shed, per month

Year 4                          $1,000, plus $30 per linear foot of shed, per month

Year 5                          $1,000, plus $40 per linear foot of shed, per month

An owner who fails to correct a SWARMP condition reported as requiring repair in the previous report filing cycle and who subsequently files the condition as unsafe on the next cycle shall be liable for a civil penalty of $2,000.

As we are seeing, the liability to building owners for not maintaining the façade is even greater now than before.

The entire new Local Law 11 rules can be viewed on the DOB website.

If you have any questions about these requirements or if you need assistance with compliance, please contact Metropolis Group at 212.233.6344.