New York City’s Facade Inspection Safety Program, known as FISP or Local Law 11, requires periodic facade inspections for buildings with more than six stories above ground. This requirement also includes appurtenant structures such as a garage, balcony railings, or street walls. The burden of responsibility falls on boards and building owners to complete these inspections every five years, file subsequent reports with the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) and to complete all remedial repairs, no matter how costly, within an allotted timeframe.
 
The five year period is referred to as a “cycle” and the current inspection timetable is Cycle 9 which opened on February 21, 2020. Deadlines to complete the facade inspections and to submit condition reports to the DOB depends on the property’s tax lot. The earliest deadlines are February 21, 2022.
 
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FirstService Residential has invested substantial resources to facilitate each of our managed properties with facade inspections and is here to help you navigate the many intricacies of FISP. Click below to view an excerpt of Local Law 11 Impact of Newly Amended Rules on Your Property, a recent webinar presented in collaboration with FirstService Energy and FirstService Project Management as part of the 2020 Capital Improvements Expo – Build to Last.

 

A Brief History of New York City’s Facade Inspection Safety Program

 
The origins of FISP date back to 1980 when New York City ratified Local Law 10 after a student was killed by a terra cotta coping stone that fell from a building. The ordinance required buildings taller than six stories to have a professional engineer or licensed architect inspect all street-facing facades for unsafe conditions every five years. Serious deficiencies had to be corrected by the building owner.
 
Since that time, New York City incrementally increased all related fines, penalties, and inspection requirements for building facades following more recent pedestrian injuries. The most drastic modification to the ordinance arrived in 1998 as Local Law 11 which requires more comprehensive facade investigations, more detailed reporting, an increased focus of the integrity of cavity walls, and more substantial penalties for buildings that do not comply. Local Law 11 also requires the installation of scaffolds during physical inspections and establishes stricter qualifications regarding who can qualify as an inspector.
 

What are the new FISP/Local Law 11 inspection requirements for Cycle 9?


Physical inspections must now be performed every 60 linear feet along a building’s facade. The increased linear requirement often means that buildings will need to install more scaffold than before which can be a costly expense for boards and owners. Inspectors are also required to probe or remove small portions of cavity walls for a more in-depth structural analysis. 

When the report is completed and filed with the DOB, buildings are required to post an exterior wall certificate similar to restaurant grading and building energy efficiency scores. Failure to post the certificate within 30 days of report filing will result in a $500 violation which can be given every time the DOB visits a property, even for reasons unrelated to the facade inspection.
 

What are “Safe” and “Unsafe” exterior building conditions?


All inspections and reports must be completed and submitted by a professional engineer or licensed architect who is registered in New York City as a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector or QEWI. The classification of building’s exterior condition is subject to the professional judgment of the QEWI performing the facade inspection. To ensure a greater standard of care, all QEWIs are now required to have at least seven years of relevant experience.
 

Safe Condition


A Safe condition means that no remedial work is required. For a building’s facade to be designated Safe, existing conditions of the building walls and associated appurtenances of the property do not require repair or maintenance to sustain structural integrity. It must also be determined that the exterior of the building will not become unsafe during the next five years.
 

Safe Repair with a Repair and Maintenance Program (SWARMP)

 
When an exterior wall requires repair or maintenance to achieve compliance, but does not exhibit immediately unsafe conditions, the structural condition is classified as Safe with a Repair and Maintenance Program, or SWARMP. Typical examples include cracked or spalled masonry, damaged coatings or deteriorated mortar joints that could degrade into unsafe conditions.
 
The QEWI must list a specific date by when each SWARMP condition will be corrected. Failure to correct SWARP conditions within the projected timeframe or by the end of the current cycle will result in a $2,000 fine. If SWARMP repairs are not completed on time and within the current cycle, the DOB will also issue a Class 1 violation and a sidewalk shed or scaffolding will need to be installed immediately.
 
It is critical to work closely with the QEWI to ensure that all deadlines are met or that necessary extensions are filed in the event of project overruns.
 

Unsafe Condition

 
Whenever the QEWI identifies an unsafe condition in the building’s facade, the building owner and the DOB must be notified immediately. The inspector will also include the deficiencies in a written report to certify the results of the examination.
 
An Unsafe condition means that the building’s exterior wall and any appurtenances are determined to be dangerous to the public and require prompt remedial action. This includes loose bricks, leaning walls, cracked glass and loose items on fire escapes or window sills (i.e. flower pots, bricks used to support resident A/C units) among other conditions.

If the condition of the facade is determined to be Unsafe, the building owner must immediately install a sidewalk shed or scaffolding as a public safety measure. The law also specifies that building owners must correct Unsafe conditions within 90 days from the date the DOB was notified. Once the work is finished, building owners must file an amended condition report within two weeks.
 
If an Unsafe Condition is not corrected within the prescribed timeframe, the DOB will assess a fine of $1,000 per month plus an additional monthly penalty based on the amount of scaffolding required until the condition has been corrected and an amended FISP report is filed.
 
In many circumstances, however, the DOB will issue 90-day extensions to complete the facade repairs after considering the amount of administrative work and coordination required to complete remediation. Additional extensions may be granted depending on the scope of work. There is no fine associated with requesting an extension as long as adequate safety measures are established to protect the public.
 

What are the fines or penalties for non-compliance?

 
The cost for filing initial and amended FISP reports is nominal compared to the penalties for failing to file. Failing to file will result in a $5,000 fine and an additional $1,000 each month after the deadline.
 
FirstService Residential has established a rich network of facades experts who are locally recognized as a premier resource for FISP compliance, investigation and building remediation. As a commitment to making a difference for each our managed properties, FirstService Residential’s in-house compliance team helps keep our properties in compliance with the various city and state regulations, requirements and deadlines.
 
The best way to comply with new FISP requirements is to plan ahead. FirstService Residential not only helps buildings complete these inspections, but can also help boards and owners finance necessary remediation, capital improvements and more. For more information, contact us today.
 
To view our entire Capital Improvements Resource Library, click here.
Wednesday December 16, 2020