Codes and legislations regarding buildings and construction, in general, are highly important and can affect all citizens. However, it is especially building owners who should consistently follow them. Keeping an eye on the changes in these regulations will help building owners avoid the possible fines and penalties.
The point worth mentioning here is the fact that many aspects of construction are under the direct control of the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB). DOB is the entity responsible for a number of procedures which include:
- Enforcement of regulations
- Investigation of alleged violations
- Running disciplinary formal procedures
- Issuing of fines and penalties
- Termination of work at construction sites
So, if you are a building owner in the city of New York who doesn’t have much knowledge in the matter and would like to learn more about the corresponding laws, DOB violations and the ways to avoid getting a notice of violation, then then you are in the right place.
The role of NYC construction codes in DOB violations
Before you tackle DOB violations, you need to know which of the codes and applicable laws affect you and your building. Find the New York City Construction codes below:
- The New York City Plumbing Code (PC)
- The New York City Building Code (BC)
- The New York City Mechanical Code (MC)
- The New York City Fuel Gas Code (FGC)
- The New York City Energy Conservation Code (ECC)
If you are aware of the codes, you can keep track of them and make sure none of them are violated. As they say, it’s better to prevent than cure. However, if you have already been issued a penalty for a violation, you’d better find out if there is a way to avoid the fine.
To do this, you’ll want to first look up the info for the city agencies contact NYC. Once at the directory of city agencies, you can find the right area for the code you’ve violated. If you’re unsure, contact the city and ask for further clarification.
Now, let’s get to those DOB violations.
What is a DOB Violation?
A DOB violation is a notice or warning that your building or property does not comply with a certain part of the corresponding law. An order from the Commissioner of the Department will be attached to the notice requiring you to correct the violating condition.
DOB violations can also be harmful for the reputation of your building as they are public. Appearing in a property title search, the DOB violations can hinder you from being able to sell or refinance your building and/or its construction.
If you want to find out whether your building has any violations, you should check the Buildings Information System (BIS) to learn more details on the matter.
Classification of DOB Violations
DOB violations aren’t one-size-fits-all. There are different classes of DOB violations that vary in severity.
The classes of violations depend largely on what the violation is. The class of violation also determines the amount of the fine you will pay. Depending on this, the penalty amount can vary from $200 up to several thousand dollars.
DOB violations are divided into the following classes:
Immediately Hazardous or Class 1 Violations
These violations are the ones that are either determined by the New York City Construction codes, or the ones that come with a life-threatening factor. This means that the violating condition can be dangerous for life, health, safety, property or the public interest and needs to be immediately corrected.
Class 1 violations are also the ones in which the penalty acts as an economic disincentive aimed at the possible continuation or the repetition of the violating condition. In other words, Class 1 violations will come with the biggest penalties, as they’re considered the biggest threat to safety.
Major or Class 2 Violations
Major violations are determined by the New York City Construction Codes, and also those that come with a life-threatening factor. The latter means that the violating condition can be dangerous for life, health, safety, property or the public interest. However, in case of Class 2 violations, the condition doesn’t have to be immediately corrected.
Class 2 violations are also the ones in which the penalty acts as an economic disincentive aimed at the possible continuation or the repetition of the violating condition. The economic penalty may not be as severe as a class 1 violation, but expect a heavy fine. If you don’t correct the violation in the near future, you could incur future penalties or face further consequences as well.
Lesser or Class 3 Violations
In case of Class 3 violations, the violating condition has a lesser effect on life, health, safety, property or the public interest than those of Class 1 or Class 2 violations. In this case, you will likely have a low penalty, but again, should still remedy the violation as quickly as possible to avoid further penalties or legal action.
While these three classes help separate the severity of the violations, it’s worth noting that any violation should be taken seriously. Beyond a fine, you could be facing legal recourse if you don’t remedy the situation in a timely manner.
Types of DOB Violations
Beyond the classifications of DOB violations, there are also additional types of DOB violations. Each type of DOB violation complies with a different law. The primary types of DOB violations are as follows:
- DOB Fire Safety Violation: Local Law 16/84 is the code which your building should comply with in terms of fire safety. LL 5/73 refers to the fire safety conditions for high-rise office buildings.
- DOB Facade Violation: The corresponding law for this is Local Law 11/98. This law pertains to street-facing facades.
- DOB Boiler Violation: Complies with LL 62/91. This violation is for failing to comply with a boiler inspection.
- DOB Elevator Violation: Complies with LL 10/81. This violation occurs when someone fails to comply with an elevator inspection.
- DOB: All Other DOB Violation Types: Requirements for other types of violations can be different. You will need to discuss this point with your Professional Engineer, Registered Architect, or contact the Construction Unit in your district.
Remember, if you’ve received a notice for a DOB violation, don’t panic. Contact the appropriate city agency and begin taking the necessary steps immediately to avoid any further damage.
Alt text: Avoiding New York City DOB violations
DOB Violations Removal
If you’ve received a DOB violation, there’s fortunately a light at the end of the tunnel. There are 3 ways to resolve your DOB violations without having to attend a hearing:
- Zero Penalty: This is possible in case of Class 3 and the majority of Class 2 violations. You correct the violating conditions and verify it within 35 days. Doing this and admitting your fault in the violation, you won’t have to attend the hearing or pay a penalty if the Administrative Enforcement Unit (AEU) accepts your certification.
- Stipulation: This can refer to Class 3 as well as to certain Class 2 violations. You will again admit your fault in the violation as a result of which the compliance time will be prolonged for 35-90 days past the first hearing day. You might have to pay half of the penalty before the first hearing date or at the hearing. If you happen to fail to certify correction on time, the penalty will be changed into its original amount.
- Admitting by Mail: This is applicable to all violations. You pay the whole initial amount of penalty either on the hearing day or beforehand. There will be no hearing after the payment is done. The correction certification should also be provided.
If you’re in doubt about what you should do, be sure to consult with your attorney or a legal consultant. The city may also provide further instruction if you call their offices.
How to Avoid DOB Violations?
There can actually be cases when you will be able to avoid certain DOB violations if they are not too serious.
Besides having to accept the violation notice and to pay the fine, you can also challenge the violation at the hearing and prove that the violation notice and the penalty are unnecessary and unfair.
There are 9 arguments, suggested by real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey and building code consultant Mark Hertz which you can use while challenging your DOB violations at the hearing:
- DOB Violation Notice in the Process of Repair: If you are in the process of correcting a non-hazardous condition and the violation notice is sent to you at that time then you are free to certify it with the DOB and avoid paying a penalty.
- Note: Keep in mind to take proof to the hearing which shows that you were in the process of repairing the hazardous condition when you received the violation notice. E.g., you can take an outside contractor (if you used such a service) or one of its employees to the hearing to prove your point, or have them sign a sworn statement (affidavit) and take it with you.
- Inability to Get Access for Correcting a Violation: You can also have a chance to dismiss the violation if you prove that you did everything to repair the violating condition but weren’t granted access to it. It will be decided that you have done everything possible to improve the condition and keep the building safe way before the DOB violation notice was sent to you. As a result, the violation will be dismissed.
- Emergency Situation: The DOB violation can also be dismissed if you prove that the violating condition occurred as a result of an emergency situation and is temporary. You can’t predict emergency situations, can you? The judge might agree that emergency situations cannot be controlled and paying a fine in such cases is unfair.
- Duplicate DOB Violations: DOB can send you a second hazardous violation notice if you haven’t corrected the condition after getting the first notice. This means you will have to pay a fine twice. However, if you have received two violation notices simultaneously about the same violating condition, you will be able to beat the second violation. This way you will avoid paying extra money for a duplicate DOB violation.
- Sale of the Building: The violation will be dismissed if you have sold the building before the DOB violation notice was sent to you. Simply take proof of the sale with you to the hearing.
- Affidavit of Service: As already mentioned, an affidavit is a sworn document that is signed by the DOB representative. It has such details as when, how and to whom the violation has been sent. You can dismiss the violation notice if DOB hasn’t filed this affidavit of service with Environmental Control Board (ECB). In this case, it is the ECB that will dismiss the violation for DOB’s irresponsible service delivery.
- Improper Delivery: If the DOB officer fails to deliver the violation notice to you personally then it is sent to you via the post office at the address mentioned on the notice. However, DOB must also check if you have a second address listed in the records of some other agency, e.g. at the Department of Finance (DOF). In this case DOB must also send another copy of the violation notice to your second address. This requirement is completely legal and is demanded by New York City Charter section 1404 (d) (2) (b). If this is not done, the violation can be dismissed by the ECB for improper delivery.
- Incorrect Spelling of Your Name: If your name is not written correctly on the violation notice, you might be able to dismiss it. This happens when you don’t receive the notice because of the mistake, or the latter causes confusion and you can’t be sure if the notice was meant exactly for you.
- Wrong Date: And last but not least, you can also dismiss the violation if the date when it happened is written incorrectly on the notice.
In the end, the best way to avoid getting DOB violation notices is to follow all the required laws and make sure your building complies with them!