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The Local Law 10 Ongoing Maintenance Program.

The Local Law 10 Ongoing Maintenance Program

According to the New York City Department of Buildings, there are only two ways to file for Local Law 10; (1) as a critical examination or, (2) as ongoing maintenance. Probably the least publicized and certainly the most under-utilized of these options is the Ongoing Maintenance Program which provides a way to gradually repair a building over a five-year period as compared to the one-shot, fix-it-now alternative of the critical examination. During a recessionary year such as this, the construction costs generated by Local Law 10 inspections can become a major financial burden in an already overtaxed situation. The Ongoing Maintenance Program can help bridge the gap to better economic times.

Local Law 10 requires certain owners to periodically inspect the exterior walls of their building.

The five-year cycle of Local Law 10 has become a pivotal calendar date much like the April 15 tax deadline. Now familiar with the procedures involved, building owners can only wince and hope for the best. In a typical critical examination scenario, an architect is retained and an inspection describing unsafe and/or precautionary conditions is made. Because of the five-year liability involved and because most architects would prefer to err on the side of public safety, there is a tendency to dot every "i" and cross every "t". The result is a report that is usually overly cautious and, in a year of high vacancy rates and low tenant supply, can put considerable strain on an owner already reeling from high tax rates. The owner then proceeds to repair any unsafe conditions (which is mandatory) and put off the precautionary items (not mandatory but at the owner's risk), usually because of a lack of funds. Five years later, another architect reveals that what was precautionary is now unsafe and what was non-existent is now precautionary. The cycle is then repeated with building owners wondering if it will ever end. If your building is large or in bad condition, there is another way.

The Ongoing Maintenance Program, as is the case with critical examinations, must be performed by a registered architect or licensed engineer. The architect acts as a consultant to the owner and has no direct involvement in the actual construction or maintenance of the building to avoid conflicts of interest. The architect monitors the building, preferably on a monthly basis, and gathers information from reports by maintenance crews, superintendents and contractors who perform and implement the program for the owner. This program cannot, of course, defer repairs to any truly unsafe condition but allows the architect the breathing room to classify a particular problem as precautionary that would otherwise be deemed unsafe for the reasons described above. (Precautionary work is defined by the Department of Buildings as a condition that, if not treated, may lead to an unsafe condition).

With the Ongoing Maintenance Program, an architect looks at your building in much the same way as a doctor looks at a patient. In any aging process the body in question will reveal symptoms prior to an actual breakdown. It would be foolish if you were to see your dentist only once every five years and expect nothing to be wrong with your teeth. A building is no different. The defects in a building's exterior are caused by a combination of normal weathering, material deficiencies, differential movement of the various materials and other, less obvious causes. Water then penetrates the skin of the building and the problems begin. If not treated, or if only patched (which is usually the case in critical examinations), the continual deterioration of your building is inevitable. Not every building is problematic but every building has a definite limit to wear and tear. In other words, ongoing maintenance is cost effective because it stops damage before it happens. In essence, a Local Law 10 inspection should be a check-up not a prescription for major surgery.

The following is a brief list of advantages the Ongoing Maintenance Program provides: *Long term pricing and scheduling of repair and maintenance work for future coordination of budgeting and integration of other items not related to the exterior, i.e. sprinkler systems, air conditioning, etc. *Prioritizes repair and maintenance work in order of importance, both for public safety and general construction *Coordination of exterior maintenance with interior renovations. (There is no sense in renovating an interior that may be destroyed by water damage) *Implementation of an organized maintenance program as opposed to the hit or miss method usually employed *Consistent performance of a program by someone who is familiar with your building and can provide in-depth analysis and cost-effective solutions to problems *Professional advice on repair and maintenance pricing, alternatives, material selection, contractors best suited to the work, etc. *Thorough maintenance records for potential buyers, building assessments and possible legal questions *Possibly lower insurance premiums *Coordination of exterior work not within the physical boundaries set by Local Law 10 but nevertheless in need of similar repair and maintenance

Local Law 10 is a permanent addition to the real estate industry and the Ongoing Maintenance Program can help defer the costs inherent in these types of inspections. All buildings require maintenance and no building over six stories high is exempt. The Department of Buildings has not introduced this law as a form of taxation but as a public safety act and there are many issues to be investigated not allowed in the space of this article. The law should be used in a positive sense to promote the beauty of your building and allow it to continue to produce income, promote business and add to the greater quality of life in New York City.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Insider Outlook
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 6, 1991
Words:946
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