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New regs create burden.

Recent federal, state and city laws are creating a mounting load of paperwork for building managers. Although regulations for some are still being drafted and finalized, the specter of architects, riggers, scaffolding, repairs, notifications, copying, pamphleting, stickering, mailing, directing, logging, applying and complying are so complicated and time-consuming that owners are yet to figure out just what it is they have to do - and by when.

The new homework consists of detailed facade inspections of all four walls; providing lead paint notices and ongoing specific measures for painting and restoring even small patches, and notifications dependent on where the work is located; and finally, fire safety signage and notices.

An attorney and principal of the family-operated Bronstein Properties, Barry Rudofsky, says the extra burden began with the passage of New York City's Local Law 11 of 1998, which now requires a facade inspection of any building six stories or taller, adding numerous small building owners to the regulatory and financial burden.

Under the Local Law 11 rules, all "full-four" facade inspections conducted on or after February 21, 1999 are considered part of the required Cycle 5 filing.

The current rush of compliance, however, has to do with the quickly arriving filing deadline for buildings, facades and detail work that was not inspected in the past under Local Law 10, and is not within 12 inches of an adjacent premises.

Also, any terra cotta or cast stone details that project out more than six inches must have a hands-on inspection, requiring scaffolding and riggers.

These must be inspected by March 2000, even though the 5th cycle (for facades inspected under previous cycles) continues to February 2002.

"It means getting an architect and spending money. It's a lot of regulation," said Rudofsky, president of the Community Housing Preservation Program, a middle market owners group numbering over 6,500 members.

Since there's been a rash of scaffolding accidents - with riggers and painters dangling on the front pages of the dailies - new regulations may soon be promulgated to ensure the training and perhaps licensing of these workers. A City Council hearing on some proposals was to take place this Friday, September 17th.

And while some owners are totally ignoring the Federal lead regulations that require a lead pamphlet be provided to occupants and purchasers of housing, one New York City owner is glad she logged the required mailings: the Environmental Protection Agency has now scheduled a visit to her office to audit the compliance.

"She doesn't have Section 8 or HUD tenants either," explained Rudofsky, who was alerted to the visit by the owner's counsel.

But this EPA audit should prompt action by those that have been unaware of - or have been ignoring - the Federal rules.

"Many, if not all the small owners aren't even complying with the original lead paint disclosure law, which requires each tenant receive a pamphlet and then get it again with their lease renewal," said Rudofsky. "Most guys aren't even doing that."

P. Leonard Jones, president of the New York Association of Realty Managers and a large property management specialist with Insignia Residential Group, says compliance is going to be very difficult, since not all the final information is available. "No matter what happens, it's the manager that must make it work," Jones said.

Rudofsky says the multi-page Federal pamphlet - "it's too long to photocopy; we just buy them" - is good for owners, because among other educationally oriented lessons, it provides notice to the occupants not to let their children eat lead paint chips.

But the EPA law is "very complex," and if even two square feet of paint is being disturbed in a common area, the owner has to provide a building-wide notice. "It's a real problem," said Rudofsky.

"Then the straw that breaks the camel's back is the city lead law, which will require notice and a lot of follow-up," he continued. "Our short-term goal is to have our members get up to speed on this."

The new city law does not require removing lead paint anymore, as it became more of a health hazard when it was disturbed and spread even more dust through the affected households.

"The old lead law was so onerous, it was also impossible to comply with," said Rudofsky. "The new law is possible to comply with, but very technical, and equivalent to the window guard situation, with a lot more follow-up. The industry is not totally happy. It adds an extra level of complexity."

Jones observed that a lot of responsibility is being placed on contractors. "If they don't perform, the housing corporation has a problem, and the [building] manager has to be there to protect them."

Concerned about the numerous details of the Federal, state and city requirements particularly those that have only draft regulations circulating but must be implemented soon, CHIP, the Associated Builders and Owners (ABO), and the Small Property Owners of New York (SPONY) have all scheduled seminars on the lead paint laws.

NYARM has also scheduled member meetings on fire safety issues.

It's because there are so many fall holidays, combined with the cold winter season when people start to use heaters, that creates "a very, very serious time," Jones said.

In fact, it was two deadly fires late last Fall that prompted quick action by the Mayor and City Council on this issue.

The city law now requires sprinklers for all new buildings of four units or more, and in rehabs where the alterations over a 12-month period exceed 50 percent of the building's value. But current building owners with three or more units (this also includes Class I owners who are not used to complying with any city requirements at all), have to mail annual notices of fire safety and evacuation procedures beginning in January - and also post evacuation and fire safety information on the insides of each apartment door, and by the mailboxes.

The notices are supposed to be mailed with the required window guard notices this coming January.

There law also contains prohibitions against tampering with or illegally setting off sprinkler systems.

"There's a question of whether we will we have to hire a licensed consultant to develop an evacuation plan that would detail which staircase the occupants should use," worried Rudofsky of a question that CHIP will be exploring as the actual regulations are finalized and the notice wordings are determined.

NYARM advises getting out fire safety information to residents in October. "We haven't published anything ourselves yet because we don't want to be off base when the final version comes down," he explained. Jones warned the two issues of fire safety and window guards are so important, and worries that both together will be too much for the residents to pay full attention to, and that January is "a little late" for the fire warnings.

"It's too much of an issue to be concerned with cost of postage," he said, advising an extra fall mailing, which would not be considered complying with the new law, and so would have to be done in January once again.

Regulations Still Not Finalized

Housing Preservation and Development currently has draft lead paint rules circulating, but it too has not issued its final regulations implementing the city's new lead law.

The Buildings Department has issued and clarified its regulations implementing Local Law 11, but many owners still haven't figured out they must have an inspection conducted and file by this coming February.

"We're quadrupling the burden, and it will crush a lot of one- or two-man shows that simply can't keep up with the paperwork," warned Rudofsky, who noted that of the several buildings his firm purchased during the last year, not one of the owners had made the lead paint notifications. "I'm not a prophet, but it doesn't encourage small "owners to take care of these buildings."
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Title Annotation:increase of federal, state and city laws governing building management
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 15, 1999
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