How Building Owners and Contractors Can Avoid Fines as NYC Looks for Additional Revenue
New York is out of money and to make up for it, the city is eyeing building violations as one way to help get it out of a financial hole.
Thanks to COVID, New York City is facing a $9 billion hit to tax revenue that Mayor Bill DeBlasio is hoping to balance by making big cuts to his budget with expected savings of $12 million in additional revenue from “hazardous violations” issued by the Department of Buildings.
As the city looks towards ramping up building inspections to use fines as an additional — and much needed — source of revenue, building owners should be more vigilant about responding to tenants’ complaints about environmental issues as well. The city passed the Asthma-Free Housing Act, which was meant to hold landlords responsible for removing allergy triggers, like pests and mold. The problem, according to Wayne Stock, owner of Stock Environmental Consulting, is that the new regulations don’t allow any room for a landlord to contest a tenant’s Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) report and costs to inspect and remediate run into the thousands of dollars.
“Once a tenant calls HPD to report mold, there’s no way to contest it if the city inspector determines that there is mold,” says Stock, explaining that one inspector might see visible mold on a wall and say it needed to be removed, while another inspector might not require such drastic measures.
This summer, NYC construction inspectors shut down 41 construction sites and issued 88 citations throughout the city in an effort to enforce COVID-related protocol.
“A large chunk of the construction industry was really paying attention to what New York City went through the past couple months, and took the pandemic and trying to slow the spread of the pandemic very seriously,” a Department of Buildings (DOB) spokesperson told Construction Dive.
Citizen complaints to the city’s 311 system calling in potential violations triggered the majority of inspections, according to the report. “Whether it’s a worker who’s concerned about safety on the job site, or a neighbor who might think a job site isn’t following COVID-19 protocols and is worried about the potential spread in their neighborhood, we certainly are getting those 311 complaints in, and we’re responding to them,” the spokesperson said.
Some of the fines were issued for violations of new mandatory health regulations for work sites that helped enforce COVID compliance, including:
- Large gatherings at lunchtime;
- Too many workers riding hoists together;
- Inadequate record-keeping for potential contact tracing.
What’s a Building Owner to Do?
As the city looks for ways to recoup the losses it’s suffered from pandemic-related issues, building owners need to be more careful than ever that they are in compliance with all regulations. Some measures to take include:
- Adhere to safety regulations: Ensuring building crews comply with all COVID-related regulations, including proper PPE, social distancing and adequate sanitation.
- Respond immediately: If a tenant complains, Stock says the best course of action is to address complaints immediately and take necessary steps to mitigate before they call HPD.
- Impose more stringent vetting: Landlords can also filter applications of potential tenants using the tenant blacklist. Tenant screening bureaus comb computers for cases filed in New York City Housing Court, which landlords can purchase, to see whether a potential tenant is on the list and brings with him, along with a couch and a bed, a litigious nature.
- Get up to date on new legislation: Building owners should also familiarize themselves with the new lead-based paint legislation enacted in Local Law 31 of 2020. This video is a must-watch for all building owners and managing agents.
- Any questions? Call Stock Environmental Consulting (732) 383-5190 if you are unsure about these new regulations or have received an environmental complaint in one of your buildings. Licensed in New York, Stock Environmental has two decades’ experience navigating city housing laws and can help put preventative measures in place to avoid onerous fees.
Stock Environmental Consulting specializes in commercial and residential environmental consulting for Lead-Based Paint, Mold Assessments and Asbestos Testing and Inspections. Call (732) 383-5190 for your consultation.