Q. I live in a rental apartment in Manhattan and have recently had some issues in my bathroom that have resulted in a water leak in the apartment below mine. I am worried because the workers that my management company has sent to do the repairs seem less than professional.
Does my management company need to hire a licensed contractor for the work?
A. Many types of construction work in NYC are required to be performed by workers with some form of license. For example, for most work done in certain types of residential properties, a Home Improvement Contractor’s (HIC) license is required, issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).
However, contractors hired directly by the managing agent of a building (such as your management company) are not required to have an HIC license.
Plumbers are required to have either a Master Plumber’s license or a Journeyman’s license (the later requires that the worker be under the supervision of a licensed Master Plumber) that is issued by the Department of Buildings (DOB).
Plumbing work, as defined by the building code, is “the installation, maintenance, repair, modification, extension or alteration of any waste, domestic water, gas or fire standpipes in any building or piping system.” If you have a major leak that has damaged the apartment below yours, it is likely that the repair work will require a licensed plumber.
Licensed architects and public engineers are often exempt from other licensing requirements as they are presumed to have the requisite skills that would be required of a licensee.
All of this being said, your question really comes down to what you can do if your management company doesn’t hire licensed workers.
The answer is probably “not much.”
If you were in Housing Court, perhaps over a dispute about necessary repairs, it would be easy to get the judge to insist that the work be done by licensed contractors. It’s unlikely that your lease contains any provision providing that your landlord is required to hire licensed contractors and thus the management company's failure to do so is likely not a breach of contract.
Your only real option may be to file a complaint with the licensing authority if you believe workers do not have the requisite licenses. You can contact the DOB’s Investigation and Discipline Unit at (212) 442-2000. If they take enforcement action, the landlord and the worker may be subject to violations and/or fines if the work was done illegally.
Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.
Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.