Compliance deFINED Blog

10 Ways to be an Awesome Landlord

by Josh Koegel on May 17, 2018 , Comments Off on 10 Ways to be an Awesome Landlord

As a NYC property owner, one of your primary goals is holding onto your tenants. Keeping your units occupied with happy, responsible tenants prevents you from blowing money on frequent turnovers or even sustaining losses from vacant units.

But how do you keep your tenants happy?

At Jack Jaffa & Associates, we’re committed to your success. To help you hold onto your tenants, we’ve compiled a handy list of 10 ways to be the best landlord ever.

1. Screen your tenants carefully

Before you can work on treating them right, make sure you choose responsible, conscientious tenants. Call references and meet with every tenant in person before making a decision. You want your tenants to make your job easier and to keep the atmosphere of the property pleasant and clean.

2. Hand-pick your managers

 If you own multiple rentals, you’ll probably need to outsource your property management. Be super careful about the company you choose to do this job. A manager will not be personally invested in the property’s success the way you are; make sure they’re competent enough to do the job well.

3. Keep it clean, safe and secure

One of the biggest turnoffs to existing and potential tenants is a poorly-kept property. No one wants to live in a dirty, unkempt building. Make sure the exteriors and interiors of your properties are kept meticulously clean and free of debris. Floors should be washed regularly and all garbage around the building should be disposed of promptly.

It’s equally important to keep your properties safe and secure. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly, your building locks are secure, and your HVAC systems are functioning optimally.

Lastly, your properties should be fully compliant with all NYC housing codes. If you’re not absolutely positive you can pass any kind of inspection, be sure to give us a call. At Jack Jaffa & Associates we’ll have you fully compliant with NYC law in no time!

4. Make repairs promptly

Your tenants want to feel cared for and respected. When one of them notifies you of a broken appliance, a leaky pipe, or a defunct furnace, take action as soon as possible. Nothing makes a disgruntled tenant like ignored complaints about a dripping sink or a useless washing machine.

 5. Respect their privacy

Respect the privacy of your tenants. To you, it may be one of your dozens of rental properties, but to them, it’s home. Make sure you notify your tenants well in advance of any visits or inspections. It’s best to provide them with a minimum of 24 hours’ notice before coming to call.

6. Go the extra mile

Don’t just be a good landlord, be a fantastic one! Try to go the extra mile with some of these ideas:

  • Put out a welcome note for your new tenants. You can include general information about the neighborhood and local businesses, along with your own contact details.
  • Host an annual building event. Whether it’s a barbecue at a local park or a quick get-together in your own place, it will create a feeling of family among your tenants.
  • Contact your new tenants one month after they’ve moved in. Ask them about the rental and assure that everything is in working order.

7. Conduct regular inspections

Most landlords fall into the habit of sprucing up their properties only when they are vacant. Get ahead of the game by scheduling routine inspections of your units. Take note of anything that needs repair or maintenance, like a broken appliance, torn carpeting, or peeling paint. This way, you’ll keep your rental properties in perfect condition and looking spiffy at all times.

8. Implement a reward system

As in every business, it’s important to show your customers – or in this case, your tenants – how much you appreciate their patronage. If you have several long-time tenants, consider implementing a reward system. You can offer complimentary carpet-cleaning, painting, or even new furnishings for an extended lease. Promise a free month’s rent for all referrals that end in a newly signed lease. You can also gift your tenants with a small holiday present to show your appreciation for their loyalty.

9. Put it in writing

Prepare your lease document carefully. The lease should detail all of your expectations and responsibilities as a landlord, including the rent collection procedure, property usage, maintenance, repairs, inspections, conflict resolution, lease terminations and evictions.

Having your expectations in writing will help you avoid disagreements and misunderstandings later.

10. Be professional, not personal

If you want your tenants to respect your property, first they need to respect you. Always be friendly and courteous to your tenants but maintain a professional distance. Never indulge in building gossip or engage in overly casual conversation.

By respecting your tenants and their properties, you can be the best landlord ever!

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All You Need to Know About the ECB Penalty Schedule Increase

by Robert Fried on May 10, 2018 , Comments Off on All You Need to Know About the ECB Penalty Schedule Increase

They did it again! The DOB has recently modified the ECB Penalty Schedule for 2018. While this is an annual occurrence, this year the changes are more significant than usual. Many violations are increasing, several new infractions have been introduced, and some existing penalties are decreasing. The new schedule has already gone into effect on March 7th, 2018 and all NYC property owners and builders must abide by the changes.

As a property owner, you know how important it is to keep yourself in the know about any changes to the NYC compliance code. As always, Jack Jaffa & Associates has got you covered!

Read on for a rundown on all the major changes to the ECB Penalty Schedule:

PENALTY INCREASES

Lots of existing penalties have jumped for 2018. Here are some of the most significant increases:

Many Aggravated I default penalties will now match Aggravated II default penalties. Aggravated I penalties are typically a lot lower than Aggravated II penalties.  With the new changes in place, many infractions will now have an Aggravated I penalty of $25,000.

Some of these infractions include:

Using an unqualified foreman (104-20)
Superintendent neglecting to comply with code (3301.13.17)
Equipment user failing to designate a lift director (3319-02)
Failure to assemble, disassemble, or ensure crane or derrick are assembled or dissembled as per plan (3319-01)
Equipment user failing to maintain crane or derrick log (3319-01[h])
Failure to take required measures to secure public safety; having an unsafe façade (28-302.5)
Failure to file evidence of compliance with Workers Comp, law and/or disability benefits law (28-401.9)

Failure to maintain an elevator or conveying system, (28304.1) has seen a huge increase in its standard penalty. It is now set at $12,500, up from just $1,000.

NEW INFRACTIONS

The DOB has added several brand-new infractions to the penalty schedule. Make sure you’re up to date on these most recent violations.

Most additions to the penalty schedule are related to construction equipment like cranes and derricks (3319-01 & 3319.02). To be fully compliant with the law, all construction equipment must be assembled and disassembled as per plan, be maintained properly, be overseen by a qualified foreman, and its use must be logged in detail.  There must also be a designated lift director on site.

There are no cures for these violations and failure to comply with them will result in fines starting at $3,125 for a mitigated Class 2 infraction and increasing up to $25,000 for an Aggravated I penalty.

PENALTY DECREASES

It’s not all bad news for property owners this year. These infractions have seen a decrease:

Standard penalty for the failure to install luminous egress or photo luminescent exit path marking in high-rise buildings, (BC 403.16 & BC 403.5.5) has gone down to $2,500 from $4,800.

Standard penalty for a class 2 failure to complete, implement or amend a bicycle access plan or provide request for exception, (28-504.1.2 [3]) has gone down to $625 from $800 and the default penalty has gone down to $3,125 from $4,000. Similar infractions regarding posting notices about bicycle access (28-504.1.4[6]) and neglecting to file bicycle access plans in a timely manner (28-504.1.4[7]) have seen identical decreases.

If You are Issued a Violation

With so many infractions increasing this year, you don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the law.

If you are issued a Notice of Violation, don’t panic. Here’s what you need to do:

Verify if your infraction is eligible for a cure date. If it is, you’ll find it listed on the proposed penalty sheet.

Verify if your infraction is eligible for a Stipulation. If it is, you’ll find it on the proposed penalty sheet as well.

Fix your violation and follow up with a Certificate of Correction by the designated date. This way, you won’t have to pay the full penalty amount.

If your violation is eligible for a mitigated penalty, you’ll find that information on your Notice of Violation. In order to qualify for the smaller penalty amount, you’ll need to prove that your violation was corrected before the hearing date.

With the new ECB Penalty Schedule in effect, you need to be certain that you are in full compliance of the law at all times. We can help! Jack Jaffa & Associates will work with you to ensure that you’re always following the NYC compliance code.

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What Local Law 81 Means for You

by Chase Jaffa on April 9, 2018 , Comments Off on What Local Law 81 Means for You

The DOB is always trying to improve the safety of construction in NYC, and the issuance of Local Law 81 is no exception. The law took effect on November 6, 2017, and as a NYC property owner, you need to be fully knowledgeable about this law and every part of the NYC compliance code.

We know that keeping on top of every new and existing law is easier said than done. That’s why we’ve given you a clear, concise run-down of Local Law 81 below. We’re here to make compliance simple!

What is Local Law 81?

Local Law 81 essentially expands the responsibilities of the construction superintendent while requiring them to be on-site at more job types.

Until this law was passed, the DOB only required a site safety manager for the construction or demolition of buildings that exceeded a height of ten stories. After Local Law 81 took effect, all buildings – with the exception of 1-3 family homes – that meet the following conditions require a superintendent during construction and demolition:

  • New building
  • Full building demolition, or demolition of more than 50% of floor area over 12 months
  • Removal of more than one floor in 12 months
  • Vertical or horizontal expansion
  • Work requiring special inspections for underpinning
  • Work requiring special inspections for protection of sides of excavations
  • Other jobs posing risk to public or property, as determined by commissioner

The Superintendent’s Responsibilities

Local Law 81 has also increased the site manager’s responsibilities. It is no longer sufficient for the superintendent to show up at the construction or demolition site and oversee the work; they are now tasked with the following:

  • Assuring that all of the work being done at the site complies with the approved documents.
  • Keeping a detailed log of all daily activities at the site.
  • Being responsible for all conditions listed in the building code.
  • Notifying the DOB in case of an accident to an individual on site or to the adjoining property.
  • Notifying the responsible parties in case of unsafe conditions and ensuring that the proper corrections are made.

Which conditions is a superintendent responsible for?

The superintendent’s newly expanded role includes taking responsibility for all necessary corrections. As mentioned, they are now accountable for all unsafe and unlawful conditions at the construction site and for assuring that these conditions are corrected.

Under this law, all conditions listed in BC 3310.8.2.1 must be adhered to at all times, including:

  • No unlicensed equipment operators are allowed
  • No work can be done at the site without the proper permits
  • Sidewalk sheds and standpipes must be properly constructed

 

The Competent Person

The superintendent’s job just got a whole lot harder. The DOB gets that; that’s why they allow the superintendent to designate a “competent person” to be present at the work site when the superintendent cannot be there. Acting as a surrogate for the absent superintendent, this competent person can identify all dangerous conditions, take corrective measures to fix them, report accidents to the DOB and communicate construction safety instructions to workers. The competent person must be present at all times.

Site Safety Plans

Another new law relating to construction is the requirement of Site Safety Plans (SSP.) SSPs  must be present at every work site at all times and be available for  DOB inspection upon request.

SSPs are required for:

  • All jobs requiring a superintendent
  • New building construction or full demolition (excluding 1-3 family homes)
  • Alteration
  • Vertical/horizontal enlargement
  • Demolition of 50%+ floor area over 12 months
  • Underpinning/excavations
  • Jobs with enhanced risk to public & property

 Noncompliance

Naturally, you plan on complying with Local Law 81 and the entire NYC compliance code. Be extra careful about obeying this law, as the DOB is strictly enforcing it! The DOB has announced that they will be making spot checks to verify that every construction site is in compliance with the law and they are issuing fines of up to $25,000 in cases of noncompliance.

Aside from heavy fines, those found to be in violation of the law may face:

  • Suspension or revocation of license or Certificate of Competence
  • Disciplinary action pursuant to the NYC Administrative Code
  • Criminal prosecution
  • Stop Work Orders or project delays

Don’t let this be you! If you’re worried about being in over your head, we can help! Contact Jack Jaffa & Associates for assistance in complying with all facets of Local Law 81 and the entire NYC compliance code and never fear a violation again!

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The NYC Predatory Equity Bill

by David Mattel on March 26, 2018 , Comments Off on The NYC Predatory Equity Bill

Several weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Predatory Equity Bill has officially become law. Under this new legislation, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development will publish a “Speculation Watch List” which will identify all recently sold, rent-regulated buildings where tenants may be at risk of displacement due to aggressive investors.

The listings will be updated quarterly on the City’s OpenData portal and will be triggered when buildings sell at an unusually high price, indicating that the new landlords plan on significantly raising the rents.

“Protecting New York tenants and affordable housing is a top priority,” the Mayor declared. “This legislation means we will, for the first time, shine a bright light on rampant speculation and greedy landlords who buy residential buildings with the goal of pushing New Yorkers out of their homes. This bill can stop tenant harassment in its tracks.”

As the mayor claims, the Speculation Watch List will alert the city and state agencies of potential tenant harassment while serving as a warning for tenants and tenant organizations. All tagged properties will be closely monitored by these agencies and all tenants in listed buildings will be provided with legal support.

“We need every tool in our arsenal to keep New Yorkers in their homes and safeguard the affordability of our neighborhoods,” said Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “This new Speculation Watch List uses data to capture the signs of potential harassment and distress, and help protect residents from the threat of predatory investment.”

This most recent law is the latest in a string of efforts to protect New York’s tenants from harassment and displacement. It follows closely behind the release of Housing New York 2.0, an initiative established by the mayor to build or preserve 300,000 affordable homes by 2026.

Another similar endeavor was the establishment of the Tenant Support Unit, an agency that goes door-to-door across the city, informing tenants of their legal rights, recording building violations, soliciting complaints linked to harassment and eviction, and providing tenants with referrals to free legal support.

As a NYC landlord, this new bill plays an important role in the way you manage your properties.

This recent law, among others, has made it extremely difficult for landlords to lawfully claim that units are ‘market units.’ It is imperative that every landlord be certain that they can indeed claim this status in order to avoid a potential violation of the law.

Additionally, while you are likely always careful to treat your tenants with utmost respect, from here on, it’s prudent to be extra careful not to take any actions that can possibly be misconstrued as harassment on your part.

It’s equally important to be on guard when considering the purchase of a new building. Always check out the going price of similar buildings in the area before closing on a sale. Is the price unusually high? Is the seller promising that you can easily raise the rents, thus profiting further from the deal? While this may have been a lucrative business proposition in the past, buying a building under these conditions will now be an instant trigger for the Speculation Watch List and will place you under scrutiny of various city and state agencies. Similarly, don’t raise the price on any buildings you are trying to sell or you will run a similar risk.

New law got you stressed? No worries! As always, Jack Jaffa & Associates is here to help you comply with NYC law in every circumstance. We’ll be glad to help you determine how you can conform to the Predatory Equity Bill and ensure that you stay within the confines of the law, at all times.

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How to Reduce or Eliminate Penalties

by Robert Fried on March 15, 2018 , Comments Off on How to Reduce or Eliminate Penalties

Of course, it’s best to avoid penalties completely. Sometimes, though, you can be caught off-guard and find yourself liable for a hefty penalty for a violation that completely slipped your mind.

Once that’s happened, here are your options:

1. Curing Violations

The best way to avoid paying a penalty is by fixing a DOB-ECB violation.  If this is offered as an option to you, you’ll find a cure date listed on your violation – you must fix the problematic area before this date. All Class 3 violations and some Class 2 violations have this option; Class 1 violations do not.

You’ll find your violation’s designated class on your penalty sheet.

Any violation marked as “Aggravated II” is not eligible for cures.

You won’t have to rush to fix your violation – the cure date is usually 40 days from the date the violation was issued. Be aware, though, that you’ll need to submit a Certificate of Correction (AEU-2 form) to let the DOB know that you are curing the violation. This means you are admitting to being guilty of the violation. Consequently, any future violations for the same issue may make you liable for additional penalties and may not be eligible for a cure date. The good news is that if you successfully fix this violation on time, you won’t have to pay a penny in fines and you won’t have to show up for your scheduled hearing.

2. Stipulations

Some violations are eligible for Stipulations. You’ll find this determination marked on your penalty sheet.

If you choose to enter into a Stipulation, you’ll only be liable for half of the imposed penalty amount. To do so, you’ll need to admit to the violation and to file a Certificate of Correction with the Department within 75 days of the pre-hearing or hearing Stipulation date. If you fail to do so, you will be held accountable for the full penalty amount.

Criteria for Stipulations are similar to that of cure dates – no Stipulations are offered for Aggravated II penalties.

3. Mitigations

If the fined party can prove the violation was corrected prior to the hearing date, they may be eligible for a mitigated penalty. As with cure dates and Stipulations, you can determine whether your violation is eligible for mitigation by simply checking your penalty sheet. Also, any violations classified as Aggravate II, are not eligible for mitigations.

What are Aggravated Penalties?

Now that you know what course of action you can take when issued a violation, let’s explore the subject of aggravated penalties. In short, this refers to a repeat offense. There are two categories of aggravated penalties.

Aggravated I Penalties are imposed when it has been proven that the same condition or charge under the NYC Construction Codes, or the previous charge under the laws in effect before July 1, 2008, was issued in a prior enforcement action against the same owner or responsible party during the last three years. In other words, the same person is being charged with a similar infraction within three years.

Aggravated II Penalties are imposed in any of the following situations::

1. The violation of law is accompanied by or results in an accident, or poses a significant risk of either occurrence.
2. The violation is accompanied by or results in a fatality or serious injury, or poses a significant risk of either occurrence.
3. The violation condition affects a large number of people.
4. The respondent or defendant withholds requested information necessary to determine the condition of a building or site.
5. The respondent has a history of non-compliance with DOB rules at one or more locations.

As mentioned above, Aggravated II penalties are not eligible for cure dates, Stipulations or mitigations and demand a hearing attendance. Both classes of aggravated penalties incur steep fines.

This all sounds a bit confusing to you or just too much to handle? As always, Jaffa can help you with any of these processes and reduce or eliminate any penalty you may have incurred.

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What you need to know about the ECB Penalties Increase

by Robert Fried on March 6, 2018 , Comments Off on What you need to know about the ECB Penalties Increase

Violation issues and their ensuing penalties are the nightmare of any landlord. Aside from being forced to navigate court hearings and a bureaucratic maze, pushing off a repair, delaying the re-installation of a fixture that was destroyed or deemed inoperable, or neglecting to attend to a structural fallout can mean paying tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Every year, the DOB meets to discuss proposed increases to the ECB penalty schedule. As you’ve probably heard, this year, quite a lot of penalties will be increasing.

While these increase should have you worried, at least you can be assured that as always Jaffa is here to help you navigate these changes and to break down what exactly you need to know about the latest NYC compliance code changes.

What’s Changing?

There are lots of penalties scheduled to increase this year. Several of them will even double in amount – or more. Here are some you should know about:

• Many Aggravated I default penalties are jumping to $25,000.
• Some new infractions have been introduced, primarily effecting construction equipment.
• The Class 1 infraction 28-304.1 – failure to maintain an elevator or conveying system will see a huge jump for standard penalty, increasing from $1,000 to $12,500.

Believe it or not, some fines are actually decreasing. The most significant reduction that will affect you as a landlord is the Class 1 infractions for failing to install luminous egress/photo-luminescent exit path markings in a high rise building. While maximum amounts aren’t changing, first-timers and Aggravated I offenders will see a nearly 50% decrease in fine amounts.

You can check out the full DOB Penalty Schedule for 2018 here.

But regardless if the particular penalty you find yourself facing has increased or decreased, you never want to pay full price anyway. When it comes to how you handle a violation and/or penalty, there are many options besides just writing the check. Check out our next blog, for ways to reduce or eliminate your penalty.

And if you’re still worried about the penalty increases coming your way? Don’t! Jack Jaffa & Associates can help ensure that you’re always following the NYC compliance code, so you can hopefully avoid them all together.

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