The Department of Buildings announced the start of a first ever Homeowner Relief Program in New York City, designed to help small property owners of one- and two-family homes avoid DOB fines, by giving them the time and opportunity to fix code violations in their homes discovered during DOB inspections.
This new program is accompanied by a set of new initiatives designed to educate homeowners about their legal requirements as property owners in New York City and bring their buildings up to code, without unduly burdening them with violations and steep fines.
“Simply issuing punishing fines to those who can least afford them is hardly the best outcome for achieving compliance,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “I am proud to announce these new initiatives designed to help small homeowners get their properties up to code and avoid fines, which ultimately means a safer city for everyone.”
With the launch of our Homeowner Relief Program, now when a DOB inspector finds a violating condition at a one- and two-family home, property owners who are eligible for the program will not immediately be issued violations, but instead they will be informed of what the violating condition is, and be ordered to fix the issue within 60 days. DOB can and will support these small property owners to ensure that the violating conditions have been properly corrected, at which point the issue can be dismissed and no further enforcement actions will be taken by the Department.
The new program is open to all owners of one- and two-family homes in New York City that have not received a DOB-issued violation in the past five years, and also to new owners who have recently purchased a one- or two-family home. Violating conditions found by DOB at a property related to illegal conversions, and violating conditions that are associated with a confirmed injury or death are not eligible for the Homeowner Relief Program.
In addition to this new initiative, the Department is announcing rule changes to our existing curable violation program, to provide small homeowners with even more opportunities to avoid financial penalties when they are issued summonses for code and zoning violations.
This rule change extends the cure period for non-safety related violations issued by DOB for all one- and two-family home owners from 40 days to 60 days, giving these New Yorkers more opportunities to bring their buildings up to code, while avoiding potential fines. Violations issued by DOB for non-safety related issues, specifically all Class 3 violations and many Class 2 violations, are currently eligible to be “cured”, meaning that if property owners demonstrate to the Department that the violating conditions have been quickly remediated, the violation can be resolved without an OATH hearing and without associated penalties.
The Department is also announcing a new educational initiative for new building owners, so that they are aware of their new responsibilities as a property owner in our City.
As part of that initiative, the Department has created a first-of-its-kind resource letter for new owners of buildings and condominiums. Following the purchase of a building or condominium in NYC, owners will receive a letter from the Department that provides a wealth of information about their new property including details of any outstanding summonses and how to resolve them, open permits and how to sign-off the work, any periodic inspections that are required to be performed, and how to work with the Department should the owner choose to perform any construction work.
“Fixing a Department of Buildings violation can be confusing for owners of small properties, and this sort of stress does not help compliance with safety laws. The Homeowner Relief Program offers a path to cure building violations so that the DOB and owners work together. As Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee, I am very pleased our city is working to find new ways to cooperate with owners for the benefit of all New York,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.
“Navigating the minutiae of government without the proper resources is difficult, and puts additional hurdles on families with one and two-family homes looking to build generational wealth,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus.
“Unfortunately, the needs of homeowners are too often forgotten in a city where the homeownership rate hovers at 33 percent, but yet our communities continue to comprise a significant part of the city’s tax base, this despite being hit hard by the pandemic.
“An expanded cure period, technical support, and increased collaboration are all welcome reforms. I commend the Department of Buildings for launching this new homeownership relief program and creating a more productive mechanism for resolving violations while supporting homeowners,”
“We applaud the Department of Buildings for taking new steps to work with property owners on ensuring code compliance while avoiding burdensome fines,” said REBNY President James Whelan. “Increasing the level of communication between DOB and property owners will play an important role in advancing our shared goal of maintaining safe buildings throughout New York City.”