How can I find out if there is a violation on my property?
Open violations on your property can prevent you from selling or refinancing your home and property. You may not know that your property has been issued a violation, especially if you rent your property to a tenant, however, that does not preclude you from remedying the infraction. Many violations carry fines and penalties, so it is important that they are addressed quickly to avoid accruing additional costs.
The NYC Construction Codes require owners of property in New York City to build and maintain their properties in safe condition. It also requires property owners to legally file any alterations or changes made to the structure, electrical or plumbing systems, and the construction of new structures within their property lines. These filings require the use of a licensed architect, engineer, or contractor, and in some cases all three.
There are two types of violations that can be issued to your property; an ECB (Environmental Control Board) violation and a DOB (Department of Buildings) violation. An ECB violation is the most common of the two and are issued by classification.
A Class 1 ECB Violation is issued for an immediate hazardous condition. These conditions pose a threat that severely affects life, health, safety, property, the public interest of a significant number of persons, to warrant immediate corrective actions. A more moderate violation can receive a Class 2 categorization, and a lesser violation would receive a Class 3 categorization.
With any ECB violation, they must be corrected immediately. Notification of the correction must be provided to the Department's Administrative Enforcement Unit. In some cases, you will need to attend an ECB hearing and pay any applicable penalties and fines. Resolving these matters can be complicated. It may be in your interest to get a professional architect and attorney involved to remedy these outstanding violations correctly and efficiently.
DOB violations, like ECB violations are public information and can be accessed on line through the NYC BIS (Building Information System) at www.nyc.gov/buildings. You can search your property by block and lot, or street address to find out if your property has received any type of violation. If you are not able to access the system, you can call 311 or consult with an architect to see if your property has been cited for any violations.
The BIS system is also a good source for obtaining documents related to your property. You can access your Certificate of Occupancy, or copies of any permits that were issued on your property. You can also access information in the files related to a filed construction permit.
If there are DOB violations that exist on your property, the DOB will not issue a new or amended Certificates of Occupancy and may delay the issuance of Letters of Completion, until the violations are remedied. This will require you complete the work required to remedy the violation and bring your property up to code. It will also require you to provide support documentation to the DOB as proof that the work has been completed, and may require you to pay fines and penalties associated with the violation.
When considering a purchase on a home or commercial property it is prudent to retain the services of an architect prior to the purchase of the property to identify if any violations exist. It is also important to know that all additions to the existing structure, decks, swimming pools or fireplaces made by prior owners have been legally filed. When purchasing a property, any existing violations to the subject premise will transfer to the new owner.
Whenever you embark on a home improvement project, an electrical or plumbing renovation, or construct an addition on or to your property, you should consult with an architect to file permits with the Department of Buildings. If you are altering any interior walls of your home, relocating plumbing fixtures, finishing your basement, adding a deck or swimming pool to your backyard or adding onto your home you need to follow specific procedures, which should start with consulting and hiring a licensed architect.
Ronald D. Victorio, R.A., AIA Ronald Victorio Architects