New York City's “Façade Inspection Safety Program” (FISP), also known as Local Law 11, requires that buildings with more than six stories have their exterior walls and appurtenances (appurtenances are anything attached to the building's facade, including balconies, railings, and fire escapes) inspected for safety every five years. Currently, about 12,000+ buildings in the city are subject to Local Law 11.
Regrettably, Local Laws 11 and its predecessor, Local Law 10, were both implemented as a response to unfortunate tragedies. Specifically, Local Law 10 was passed and signed into law in 1980 by Mayor Ed Koch after a Barnard College student was killed in the Spring of 1979 by a piece of terra cotta that fell from a building.
After that, in 1997, a partial building collapse on Madison Avenue prompted the passing of Local Law 11, which was implemented by Mayor Giuliani in 1998. To avoid any more tragedies, the city is making compliance with Local Law 11 even stricter.
Front Façade and all sidewalls must be inspected
Local Law 11 mandates the inspection of all four sides of a building. The only exception is for walls that are 12” or less from a neighboring building. Previously, Local Law 10 previously only required that the front façade and side walls up to 25 feet from the street were inspected.
All appurtenances must also be inspected along with the facades of each building. An appurtenance is anything attached to the facade (for example balconies, railings, and fire escapes). Balconies and railings were added to Local Law 11 in 2014 after a woman fell when the balcony railing broke as she was sitting on it.
Local Law 11 also mandates a physical inspection from scaffolding as opposed to visual binocular or a telescope inspection from afar, which were permissible under Local Law 10.
The Engineer or Architect has to be present
Another new requirement of Local Law 11 is that the engineer or architect who stamps the inspection must be at the site, by either supervising or conducting the inspection.
Site Safety Manager
Exterior restoration projects over 14 stories require oversight from a licensed "New York City-certified site safety manager".
New Classification System
Local Law 11 also amended its report classifications. Under Local Law 10, the reports were merely “pass” or “fail.” Now the report has three classifications, “safe,” “unsafe,” or “safe with a repair and maintenance program.” The new classification is aimed to ensure that buildings can address needed repairs prior to the next inspection.
A crackdown on Carryover Conditions
Under the current version of Local Law 11, the Department of Buildings (DOB) has started cracking down on repair issues that were classified as “safe with repair and maintenance” that an owner never fixed. Essentially, if not fixed by the next cycle/inspection, the DOB will classify the repair as unsafe even it’s not actually unsafe, just so the owner is forced to correct the issue immediately.
Broken Down Into Cycles
Local Law 11 Façade Inspection Safety Program (“FISP”). Currently, we are in Cycle 8. This Cycle began on February 21, 2020, and runs through February 21, 2024. Cycle 9 is a 5 year cycle that is divided into three, sub-cycles. The building’s sub-cycle filing deadline depends on the last digit of your block number on file with NYC.
60 days to fill out the inspection report
The inspection report is due no later than 60 days after the inspection. Since reinspection can be pricey, buildings often want to ensure that they submit the inspection report within 60 days. Under the old requirement, an owner could theoretically get their building inspected on the first day of their cycle and then file their inspection report on the last day of the cycle.
Under Local Law 11, window air conditioning units are required to have supporting brackets, either on the inside or outside. Under NYC local law 11 air conditioners without brackets are classified as being unsafe. This is a condition that must be corrected immediately.
When unsafe conditions are discovered during an inspection, the Department of Buildings will send an inspector. More than likely, even if there is a plan to correct the conditions, the inspector will still issue some sort of DOB violation.
Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations are usually reserved for severe problems. Typically building owners receive ECB violation when, upon re-inspection, the inspector finds the building has not started working on the repairs nor have they provided an adequate safeguard.
Under the current Local Law 11 rules, the penalties start at $1,000 and an additional $250 for every month that a building misses its deadlines.
It's important to be prepared for Local Law 11 requirements in NYC. The best way to protect your condo or co-op building is to encourage the Board or Managing agents to do a thorough check and set up a maintenance program for your building. Essentially, it best to play offense when it comes to Local Law 11 maintenance.
Having an experienced architect and/or engineer on hand is a great way to stay updated on the evolving Local Law 11 laws.