NEWS: NYC Real Estate Compliance Changes Due To COVID-19

IMPORTANT - Please Read

As the city responds to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), local law agencies are adjusting certain requirements and procedures – here’s a full list noting changes across all city agencies.  

We’ll continue to update this post as changes are made, and we’ll let you know as soon as they happen – bookmark this page to see the latest compliance news.  

You can view updated Coronavirus information from the DOHMH here, and guidance on general disinfection guidelines for non-healthcare settings here. There’s also an FAQ sheet for residential buildings from the DOHMH. 

DOHMH

Permits

The DOHMH’s permits page notes that while in-person services are not being provided, you can renew online. That said, per the agency, “All DOHMH licenses and permits that will expire or require renewal during the State of Emergency are extended for the duration of the emergency. Renewal notices are not being sent out at this time.

Additionally, the DOHMH is reducing inspection activities . They will respond to complaints that pose an imminent hazard related to food service establishments, childcare facilities, and the following: indoor environmental conditions, drinking water, cooling towers, and rodents.

We’ll continue to reach out and provide clarification and updates as they are available.

Cooling Towers

The DOHMH has released updated guidance on cooling towers – you can access the full PDF here.

Here are some key points from the newly issued guidelines:

  • Under New York State Executive Order 202.6, service providers for cooling tower systems that support “Essential Infrastructure” are exempt from work staffing reduction requirements during the pandemic
  • Essential infrastructure examples include air conditioning, ventilation, refrigeration, industrial or manufacturing processing, and electric power generation
  • Per the guidance, “building management must work with their service providers to continue to comply with cooling tower regulations (Local Law 77 and Title 24 of Chapter 8 RCNY) with an adjusted water quality monitoring schedule, if needed”

If your cooling tower is in operation:

  • The building owner must coordinate essential services with operators and vendors and adhere to all cooling tower regulatory requirements.
  • If the building has staffing shortages, follow an interim water quality monitoring schedule
  • Bacteriological indicator and legionella sampling requirements remain unchanged
  • Avoid non-continuous operations even if heat loads vary. Circulate water for at least 4 hours every 3 days while applying chemical and biocides

If your cooling tower is off for the season:

  • Delay startup until you have the appropriate staff to complete the startup procedures
  • If you cannot delay startup, refer to the Startup Procedures for Cooling Towers Spring 2020 (linked here, on the second page)

For guidelines on additional cooling tower scenarios and the interim water quality monitoring schedule, see the PDF.

OATH (ECB)

All five OATH hearing centers are closed, and in-person hearing will not be conducted until the stay at home order is lifted. 

The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings is temporarily suspending its rescheduling rule. All requests to reschedule upcoming hearings will be granted – you can reschedule hearings througthis link 

You may also choose to have an upcoming hearing via phone, submitting any evidence via email. Click this link to view how to request a hearing via phone, and what you need to submit as part of your request. Per OATH’s latest update, you can also request a hearing by phone via email, sent to the borough hearing location listed on your summons. Click here for a list of email addresses for each hearing center.

As a side note, our friends at Cohen, Hochman & Allen have had several hearings by phone over the past week – if you have any questions about the details of the process, let us know & we’ll get you in touch with them.

Additionally, as of March 19th, OATH is staying defaults and will reschedule hearings for individuals who did not appear for scheduled hearings. This means no respondent will be found in violation for failure to appear at a hearing during this time. 

Log into your SiteCompli account and view your Calendar to ensure your upcoming hearings are rescheduled as needed.  

Department of Buildings

Access the DOB’s COVID-19 response page here.

The DOB is changing policies to limit the amount of walk-in traffic to DOB offices. While most updates relate to construction (see details on the construction halt below), there are some enforcement changes to be aware of. 

See below for an update on local law filings (inspections for boilers, facades, etc.) during this time. 

Resolving Violations

Effective March 20th (via Service Notice), you must call the issuing unit on a DOB violation to resolve it. You can find phone numbers and email addresses for respective DOB units here. For OATH summonses (below), you must contact the Administrative Enforcement Unit with any questions.

To pay an Immediately Hazardous Violation Civil Penalty (AEUHAZ1), log into eFiling and select Express Chasier – Payments and Hazardous Violation Fees. You can pay by eCheck or credit card. A copy of the receipt must be submitted with a Certificate of Correction request. You can see more details on the Certificates of Correction service notice here.

Certificates of Correction

Certificates of Correction for DOB-ECB (OATH) violations can no longer be sent or delivered in person to the Administrative Enforcement Unit. Per the DOB, “The deadline to mail in paper Certificate of Correction affidavit and statement forms (AEU2, AEU3321 and AEU20) is May 1, 2020. Requests received by mail after May 1, 2020 will be returned to the sender with instructions to submit the request online.”

To submit a Certificate of Correction request, use an eFiling account to log into DOB NOW here and select the BIS portal. From there, select “+ Certificate of Correction Review Request” and enter the required fields, including the summons number.

Select save. Then, in the Documents section, upload completed applicable AEU2, 3321, and 20 forms, or any other required documents. After completing the Statements & Signature section, select submit.

The request will not be reviewed by the Administrative Enforcement Unit until the Submit button is selected and confirmation is given for it to be submitted. An email notification will be sent to the applicant with the status of the review. If the request is disapproved, a new request needs to be submitted.

You can verify receipt via the status (Certificate Pending) in your SiteCompli account. All documents will be returned by mail. For additional assistance, contact aeucustomerservice@buildings.nyc.gov.

Regarding notarization, we were told by the Administrative Enforcement Unit that this requirement still remains. Of course, this could change at any time. Still, if your team’s notary is unavailable, you may be able to get documents notarized at local UPS Stores or other similar, open retailers.

Licensing

Per the DOB, “Beginning Monday, May 4, 2020, applications to renew a license/registration issued by the Department of Buildings can be submitted online at www.nyc.gov/dobnow. Renewal applications will not be accepted in-person or by mail as of Friday, May 8, 2020.”

This includes licenses for construction superintendents, electricians, filing representatives, high pressure boiler operating engineers, master plumbers, and more. You can reach out to doblicensing@buildings.nyc.gov with any questions.

Additionally:

Licenses/registrations expiring from the beginning of the declaration of the state of emergency through the period of the emergency declaration are extended in accordance with Mayor’s Emergency Executive Order. Affected licenses/registrations will be automatically extended by subsequent orders until the state of emergency in the City of New York is no longer in effect.

Any licensee/registrant who is eligible and can satisfy the requirements for renewal of their license/registration may submit their application for renewal at any time during this period. Following the extension period, licensees/registrants will be subject to all requirements for the renewal of their respective license/registration.

Stop Work Orders

To arrange re-inspections and request SWO rescissions, contact the enforcement unit on the order. Here’s a list of relevant units and their contact information:

Concrete Enforcement Unit
(212) 393-2730

Construction Enforcement Inspections (Borough)

Bronx(718) 960-4730BXConstEnf@buildings.nyc.gov
Brooklyn(718) 802-3685BKConstEnf@buildings.nyc.gov
Manhattan(212) 323-8079MNConstEnf@buildings.nyc.gov
Queens(718) 286-8380QueensQConstructionEnforcement@buildings.nyc.gov
Staten Island(718) 420-5418BKConsEnf@buildings.nyc.gov

Construction Safety Enforcement
CSEAppointments@buildings.nyc.gov

Electrical Enforcement Inspections
(212) 393-2417

Plumbing Enforcement Inspections
(212) 393-2557
PlumbingSWO@buildings.nyc.gov

Vacate Orders

To rescind a vacate order, contact the respective Construction Enforcement Unit for the borough where the property is located (see the above table).

Construction Halt

New York State is halting non-essential construction. Read the governor’s updated guidance here

As of Friday, 3/27, only work on roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or healthcare facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters will be considered essential (see the city’s guidelines below). Violating this new rule could see fines of up to $10,000 from the state.

Per the governor’s office, “For purposes of this section construction work does not include a single worker, who is the sole employee/worker on a job site.”

Starting 3/31, the DOB will regularly inspect all construction sites to ensure compliance with the State Executive Order. Additionally, non-compliance will result in the issuance of a violation carrying a $5,000 penalty. 

Here are more DOB updates regarding construction suspension:

  • Click here to view a service notice from the DOB
  • Here are key FAQs from the city about essential and non-essential construction
  • See the city’s guidelines on essential versus non-essential construction here
  • See the city’s Bulletin for guidelines on securing suspended  construction sites
  • View a map of the city’s essential active construction sites

Read this New York Times article giving insights into some construction sites as of late April-May. The article also references the regular DOB inspections, as well as over 115 violations issued for noncompliance during this time.

General Job Filings (Applications)

Per the DOB’s latest update, starting “Monday, June 8, 2020, all BIS job applications must be submitted in eFiling, except the project/work types or additional considerations listed below. In addition, it will be required to electronically submit initial permits and withdrawal applications in eFiling.”

The DOB will host web training sessions starting May 29th to walk users through the new procedures in eFiling. You can reserve your spot for a scheduled web-based training here.

In addition to Alt-2 and -3 applications, NB and Alt-1 applications will no longer be accepted in-person at a borough office. The Development Hub team will continue to process plan examination applications, per the below:

Development HubContinues to process NB and Alt-1 plan examination applications
Hub Full-ServiceStandard plan examination or professional certification of objections for NB, Alt-1, Alt-2 and Alt-3 applications
Hub Self-ServiceProfessionally certified NB, Alt-1, Alt-2 or Alt-3 applications

Exceptions include Full Demolition (FDM), Legalization, School Construction Authority (SCA), and Subdivisions. There are also specific instructions for Builders Pavement Plan (BPP) and Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

See the Service Notice for more specific details on filing how-to’s, and upcoming filing changes.

Essential Construction Requests

Beginning Tuesday, March 31, 2020, to perform emergency or solitary work at sites, go to www.nyc.gov/dobnow and submit an Essential Construction request as set forth in Empire State Development guidance on NYS Executive Order 202.6 and the DOB Guidance Document on Enforcement of Essential vs. Nonessential Construction.

From the DOB’s most recent update: “Projects and sites not listed on the Essential Active Construction Sites map are required to submit an Essential Construction Request at www.nyc.gov/dobnow. Please check the map before continuing work to ensure your project is listed. If your project is not listed, submit an Essential Construction Request for approval before continuing work.”

Per the DOB, the map was updated on Friday, April 17th and will be updated daily as new requests are approved.

Approved Work is only approved for a specific job number – any other job number at that BIN requires an additional, new Essential request. Per the DOB, “For all other categories (Affordable Housing, Homeless Shelter, Hospital/Health Care, Public Housing, Utility and Schools) an Essential Construction request does not need to be submitted because the BIN has already been approved as essential and a Certificate of Authorization is not required.” That said, we know some sites have not been appearing on the map – check daily to ensure your essential site is listed, and reach out to the DOB if it isn’t appearing.

For jobs in approved status, an Essential Construction request must be submitted to proceed with an initial work permit application (PW2). Hub Self-Service will not accept or process applications.

If your request is approved, a Certificate of Authorization must be printed for each approved job and posted at the job site. Each Certificate will be automatically updated if the state’s emergency order is extended – as of May, you must post a Certificate with the latest expiration date (June 7, 2020). You can find these Certificates in DOB NOW.

Antenna, Construction Fence, Curb Cut and Sidewalk Shed work types are exempt and can proceed without submission of an Essential Construction request.

Permits & After Hours Variances

Permits already in effect remain in effect until the end of the terms for which they were issued. Permits that would have expired during the state of emergency have been extended for the duration of the state of emergency, and will automatically be extended if the state of emergency is extended. Otherwise, there are no changes to the permit renewal process and all applicable fees apply.

All After Hours Variance (AHV) permits will be rescinded. Initial AHVs can only be requested for jobs that have an approved Essential and Emergency Construction request. All approved jobs seeking a permit can drop off initial AHV applications at a borough office; it cannot be submitted in eFiling or DOB NOW. See the Application Processing Service Notice for information about drop off procedures.

Place of Assembly/TPAs

As of 5/6, applications for Place of Assembly and Place of Assembly Certificates of Operation can be submitted in DOB NOW: Build for review. Check out the Resources page for more information on the process.

Temporary Place of Assembly applications will remain suspended during the State of Emergency.

All other construction updates can be found at the DOB’s main COVID-19 response page.

Required Local Law Filings

Per the DOB’s FAQ sheet , Local Law compliance inspections and tests (elevators, boilers, and facades) are considered necessary projects to protect the health and safety of occupants – they are permissible during the construction suspension. 

The DOB is directing anyone with facade-related questions to facades@buildings.nyc.gov or 212-393-2551. Cycle 9 due dates have been posted, with the sub-cycle 9A (block last digits 4, 5, 6, and 9) filing period starting now through February 21, 2022.

Benchmarking

The DOB has announced that due to COVID-19, any covered buildings who do not submit Benchmarking by May 1st, 2020 (the original annual due date) will not receive a violation. Instead, they will receive a reminder in the form of a Notice of Non-Submission. Owners will have until August 1, 2020 to submit benchmarking data – failure to do so by that date will result in violations for each quarter of non-compliance. 

It’s a roundabout way of saying there’s an automatic, penalty-free extension for three months. Still, make sure your information is submitted by 8/1/20 to avoid what could be $1,000 in initial quarterly penalties.

Housing Preservation & Development

HPD has created an informational update page for landlords and tenants as a resource – you can access it here. Generally, HPD is asking (not requiring) building owners to prominently display the most up-to-date COVID-19 flyers in your buildings. Flyers can be found here.

HPD inspectors are only inspecting hazardous violations for heat, hot water, and other dire conditions. Non-emergency housing complaints will be logged and scheduled when regular inspections resume. HQS inspections for vacant Section 8 units should resume next week (estimating April).

Effective Monday, March 16th, the Client Services center at 100 Gold Street is closed. It will remain closed at least through March 30th 

For Section 8 participating owners, HPD has put together a resource page here. Here are some of the major changes: 

  • HPD will be suspending any subsidy termination actions until further notice.  
  • All tenant conferences and briefings scheduled will be postponed. 
  • Owners with questions should contact DTROS@hpd.nyc.gov or fax 212-863-8526. 
  • HPD will automatically provide additional time for anyone with an active voucher. Vouchers set to expire will be automatically renewed.
  • HPD will temporarily suspend non-emergency HQS inspections. 
  • All hearings for appeal are cancelled until further notice. HPD will continue to pay subsidy until a final determination is made. 

For now, there is no additional guidance on heat/hot water inspections, or changes to violation certification dates and timelines.  

Fire Department of NY

Inspections

While there haven’t been any official blanket statements about FDNY-related inspections (permits, etc.), we’ve heard from owners and managers that inspections are still continuing, but may be impacted by building access. If you’ve closed a building entirely and have an upcoming or scheduled inspection, you may want to contact the FDNY and inform them. In general, you can reach out to FDNY.BusinessSupport@fdny.nyc.gov for updates during this time.

Violations

Effective immediately, the Cure/Compliance Unit will no longer conduct in-person processing of Certificates of Correction at FDNY HQ.

You can request CoC reviews/Proofs of Corrections via regular mail or email submission:

Submit your request via mail to:
Bureau of Legal Affairs
Administrative Enforcement Unit
9 MetroTech Center, 1st Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11201

Submit your request via email to:
Curedesk@fdny.nyc.gov
Any questions should be submitted through the email provided above.

Requirements

The FDNY is now allowing – not requiring – building owners to postpone in-person fire drills and non-fire emergency (EAP) drills.  

Owners who postpone drills are encouraged to distribute to all required participants, either online or via hard copy, written information addressing fire safety and/or emergency preparedness, as applicable. Log entries shall be made by the owner/Fire and Life Safety Director indicating the postponement or delay, the reason, and the distribution of materials. Copy of distributed materials shall be kept and made available to the department upon request.  

Owners with questions can contact the FDNY by calling 311 and asking for the FDNY’s customer service center. You can also view other contact options via this link 

SiteCompli Resources and Tools

In addition to sending out automated Executive Summary reports (so you can see what’s going on across your portfolio & best prioritize without having to log in), SiteCompli is also giving users access to the Call Center & Tenant Portal feature for free.

SiteCompli’s Call Center lets you centralize tenant requests in one place, so your team can log into SiteCompli & determine what’s urgent, and what can be put on hold. Tenants use a simple and direct interface to log requests and record messages 24/7. You can even redirect calls during specific times or days of the week, depending on your team’s needs. That’s in addition to the online tenant portal, where tenants can also log requests.

If you’d like to turn on this feature for your account, just let us know – reach out to support@sitecompli.com, and we’ll help you get started ASAP.

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About the Author

Kristen Hariton

Kristen Hariton is the Product Marketing Strategist at SiteCompli. A member of the SiteCompli team since March 2013, Kristen has learned more about compliance and property operations than she ever thought possible. When she's not sharing the latest industry trends, changes, and updates, she's planning her next adventure to Walt Disney World.