The Department of Buildings is rolling out a program to help small property owners avoid fines for building code violations. This helps New Yorkers who own or recently bought a one- or two-family house by giving them extra time to fix problems—such as not submitting the relevant paperwork for a new boiler or work that does not meet construction codes—which could result in fines.
In the past, if an inspector found an unsafe or illegal condition, a violation would immediately be issued to the property owner, something which would often require fines plus an administrative hearing (involving a summons issued by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings).
The new initiative, called the Homeowners Relief Program, is available to new property owners or those who haven't received a DOB-issued violation in the past five years. It gives property owners 60 days to fix a code violation in hopes they will keep their buildings safe by addressing problems as soon as they are discovered. Compliance within that timeframe means no violations will be issued and the summons is dismissed. Non-compliance will, however, result in a violation.
Small property owners often find DOB-issued penalties difficult to pay and the priority for residents should be on building safety. "Simply issuing punishing fines to those who can least afford them is hardly the best outcome for achieving compliance,” says Melanie La Rocca, the city's buildings commissioner.
Not all infringements will be treated equally, however. For example, illegal conversions or conditions where there's been a confirmed injury or death won't be eligible for the program and violations will be issued immediately.
In tandem with this initiative is an effort to educate homeowners in NYC about their legal requirements as property owners. Now, if you buy a building or condo you'll get a letter from the Department of Buildings with details about outstanding summonses and how to resolve them, open permits and how to sign-off the work, periodic inspections that might be needed, and how to work with the Department if you want to do any building work or renovations.