Compliance deFINED Blog

Q&As on DOB Inspections

by Robert Fried on November 29, 2017 , Comments Off on Q&As on DOB Inspections

As mentioned in our last blog, the DOB recently welcomed 105 newly minted inspectors at the 2017 inspector graduation ceremony. To property owners/managers all over NYC, this thankfully doesn’t mean tougher enforcements….because as you all know, DOB inspections are tough enough.  So in honor of the new graduates, here’s a quick review of everything you need to know about DOB inspections.

Q:What is DOB NOW?

A: In an effort to make the inspection process simpler for all those involved, DOB launched an online platform in 2015. You can now schedule virtually all of your inspections online, resulting in a more precise inspection schedule and a much improved tracking and notification system.

To make it even easier, you can also certify qualified objections electronically, thus eliminating the cost of re-inspections entirely. Money that stays in your pocket is always a good thing!

 

Q: Do I need to schedule my inspections via DOB NOW?

 A: All licensed professionals and property owners are now required to use DOB NOW. Snail mail and even email requests are so last century!

Remember, though, that in order to request and schedule an inspection, you must first register for an account. To register, simply visit the DOB NOW Inspections website, click on the link to register for DOB Now: Inspections, then click on “New Users: Register for an Account” and follow instructions until you’re all set up!

Important: Use the email address that is listed in Section 26 of your PW1 filings when registering for DOB NOW: Inspections. We know you keep changing your email address to escape those super annoying spammers, but the city needs to know exactly who you are.

 

Q: Which areas require development inspections?

A: You are obligated to request inspections in the following areas:

  • Electrical Signs
  • Fire Suppression
  • Boilers
  • Construction Cranes & Derricks
  • Elevators
  • BPP
  • Oil Burning Equipment
  • Sustainability
  • Plumbing
  • High Rise Initiative

 

Q: Are there any other kinds of inspections I can schedule through DOB NOW: Inspections?

A: You can schedule almost any kind of inspection you can think of, even if it isn’t required, including Builders Pavement Plans, Electrical, House Connections and more.

 

Q: Can anyone request an inspection?

A: Any NY citizen is allowed to register for an inspection, but all licensees, registered architects, and professional engineers are required to request inspections. Note the word exchange in the above sentence; it makes all the difference!

 

Q: I’m having trouble registering for the DOB NOW: Inspections. What can I do now?

A: No worries; you’re not the only one who is technologically challenged.

To help ease the hassle of inspections for those finding the process too complicated to navigate on their own, the DOB has set up kiosks in each Borough Office in NY. At these locations, you’ll find assistance from the DOB staff. They’ll guide you through the registration process and even help you link our PIN in DOB NOW: Inspections. It’s the perfect solution for those who prefer humans over machines.

Here’s where you’ll find these kiosks:

  • The Bronx:

Bronx Borough Office

1932 Arthur Avenue, 5th Floor

Kiosk location: Old Certificate of Occupancy Room

 

  • Brooklyn

Brooklyn Borough Office

210 Joralemon St, 8th Floor

Kiosk location: Application Processing waiting area

 

  • Manhattan

Manhattan Borough Office

280 Broadway, 4th Floor

Kiosk location #1: Construction/Electrical/Plumbing Inspection waiting area

Kiosk location #2: Elevators/Boilers public waiting area

 

  • Queens

Queens Borough Office

120-55 Queens Blvd

Kiosk location: Inspections Counter, 1st Floor

 

  • Staten Island

Staten Island Borough Office

10 Richmond Terrace, 2nd Floor

Kiosk location: 3rd Floor Inspections

 

Q: Are there any other resources to assist me with using DOB NOW: Inspections?

A: While you can find many resources online, including from the DOB website itself, we’ve recently compiled everything you need to know about all NYC codes and inspections in our Compliance deFINEd, a comprehensive, yet easily understandable overview to help you navigate the complexities of NYC compliance. Download your free copy today!  Or just give Jaffa a call to clarify any questions you may have about your compliance or inspections.

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DOB Inspector Graduates 105 New Inspectors

by Robert Fried on November 16, 2017 , Comments Off on DOB Inspector Graduates 105 New Inspectors

In early November, the Department of Buildings welcomed 105 newly minted inspectors at the 2017 inspector graduation ceremony.

Did you get all that? That means there are now exactly one hundred and five more inspectors making the rounds at NYC properties than there were just a few weeks ago. That’s a whole lot of newbie inspectors in town!

Does that thought give you the jitters? Worried that with all these new recruits the random inspections will start coming more often? After all, the DOB needs to keep all of these graduates busy! What does all this mean for your property?

No worries; it doesn’t quite work like that! The DOB’s random inspections are determined using a complicated algorithm and are in no way related to the amount of rookie inspectors waiting to get out into the field. It’s a bit more systematic than a supervisor sending a bored inspector to your building on a whim.

Aside from these surprise inspections, don’t forget that all licensees, registered architects, and professional engineers are required to request inspections in the following areas:

  • Electrical Signs
  • Fire Suppression
  • Boilers
  • Construction Cranes & Derricks
  • Elevators
  • BPP
  • Oil Burning Equipment
  • Sustainability
  • Plumbing
  • High Rise Initiative

When you requested the inspection yourself and you have more than enough time to prepare for it, it isn’t all that daunting. Random inspections, on the other hand, can be super scary.

Are you constantly looking over your shoulder anxiously awaiting that surprise inspection? Do you have nightmares about the inspector finding you neglectful in any of the hundreds of ways you need to abide by NYC’s compliance code?

Take a deep breath and relax; we’ve got you covered! Our next blog will cover the FAQs you need to know about DOB inspections, so you never have to feel unprepared again. And if you find complying with NYC’s safety regulations and all the accompanying laws overwhelming, just ask us how we can help. Jack Jaffa & Associates is committed to making compliance painless and simple.

With Jack Jaffa & Associates, you’ll never fear an inspection again!

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Annual Safety Notice Mailings Done Right

by Ahuva Ruvel on November 5, 2017 , Comments Off on Annual Safety Notice Mailings Done Right

The end of the year is always a busy time for property owners – and we’re not talking holiday shopping. The end of the year is always a busy time for property owners – and we’re not talking holiday shopping.

At each year’s end, those dreaded Annual Safety Notice Mailings need to go out, with all that entails.

NYC law requires landlords to send yearly safety documentation and forms to tenants in order to ensure compliance with city agencies. These documents include information on various safety aspects, as well as forms inquiring about the ages of any children living in your tenants’ apartments.

As with each of NYC’s compliance requirements, sending out your Annual Safety Notice Mailings is a process that involves multiple steps and strict adherence to the law.

Feeling overwhelmed? No worries; we’ll walk you right through the process!

Here’s everything you need to know about NYC’s mandatory Annual Safety Notice Mailings for landlords:

1) The law requirements

All tenants of residential buildings must receive the following annually:

A. Fire Safety Guides
B. Window Guard Notices
C. Lead Paint Notices

As a landlord or property manager of a dwelling that houses three apartments or more, you are responsible for:

• Ensuring that the required forms and information are sent to all tenants.
• Tracking and storing all tenant responses and following up on tenants who fail to respond.
• Inspecting for lead paint and any required window guard installations as responses are received.
• Notifying the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) in the event that you are unable to determine if a child lives in a unit.
• Maintaining records of sent mailings, follow-up efforts and tenant responses for ten years.

2) Penalties for non-compliance

As always, there are consequences for failing to comply with the law. If you neglect to send out the Annual Safety Notice Mailings, do not take appropriate action when you receive the responses, or do not track the responses and follow up on those who haven’t returned the forms, you can be facing serious penalties.

If an accident occurs in one of your dwellings and you did not comply with this law, you may be looking at financial and criminal risks, which can mean increased insurance rates, and/or prison time. To make it even worse, you can be hit with a lawsuit for negligence from the affected tenant.

Aside from criminal charges and civil penalties, the DOHMH and FDNY levy fines ranging from $500 to $5000 per violation for landlords who do not comply with this law.

It just isn’t worth cutting corners and doing a quick job when it means paying for it later. You don’t want to mess with your annual mailings!

3) Sending out the mailings 

Your notices can be delivered via first-class mail, hand-delivered to your tenants, or sent out with the January rent bill, provided it’s sent out between December 15th 2017, and January 16th, 2018.

Once you’ve sent them out, you’ll need to wait for the responses and then take appropriate action where necessary.
Your tenants will have until February 15th to respond. If they fail to do so, you must make a reasonable attempt to inspect their apartment to determine if a child lives there. If you are unable to gain access to the dwelling despite making an effort to do so, it’s best to hold onto proofs of your efforts for ten years to avoid criminal charges and liability.

4) Preparing for your mailings 

To make your job simpler, start early. You can review your tenant rent rolls and verify that they are updated with the correct unit numbers, tenant names, phone numbers and email addresses. Meet with your team to determine who will be handling the follow-up lead inspections and window guard installations.

5) How to make your job even easier

It’s simple math really… Zero job for you = Zero headache for you So how do you make this annual headache as easy as possible? Just let Jaffa do the job for you!

All you’ll need to do is fill out some basic information on our website and Jack Jaffa Safety Notice Mailing Services will send the appropriate packets to your tenants.

Your tenants respond by filling in a simple form that gets sent back to us – not you.

All the responses get processed by our dedicated team and your account will be updated automatically with all the necessary information.

You can track the entire process online and view the scanned copy of the responses whenever you need them. All postage, processing, and uploading are included in our reasonable fee.

Contact us today for more details.

Whether you use our services or decide to do it yourself, remember to pay strict attention to every detail of your mailings to assure perfect compliance.

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Our Guide to Finding the Right Tenants

by Lilly Rabinowitz on October 24, 2017 , Comments Off on Our Guide to Finding the Right Tenants

One of the biggest challenges of being a successful landlord is finding the right tenants. You want courteous, responsible tenants who will be timely with the rent and take proper care of your property.

Tenants who don’t fall into these categories can be nightmares for landlords. Without properly researching your tenants, you can be stuck with renters who trash your property or are notoriously late with the rent. Even worse, you can find yourself with squatters who refuse to leave and refuse to pay you a single cent.

How can you be sure you’ve chosen the right tenants? Is there a way to check whether a potential renter is who they say they are? What qualities should you be looking for in a tenant?

So many questions – but we’ve got the answers! To make this task easier for you, we’ve compiled a handy list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind when you’re searching for tenants.

Do: Screen every prospective tenant

This is more than just asking for a reference or two. You’re going to have to do extensive research if you want to have trustworthy tenants.

It’s best to create a rental application which will give you all the information you’ll need. Include the following criteria on your application:

• Applicant’s job, direct supervisor, and annual income

• Applicant’s current address

• Contact information for applicant’s previous landlord

• Government identification

• Names and numbers of friends and family members

This information will allow you to gain a clear understanding of who your tenant is. Also, by asking for details on the applicant’s family members and friends, you’ll have someone to contact if the tenant does a disappearing act.

Don’t: Fall for tenant scams

In our digital age, it’s easy for someone to create a fake life for themselves. For a landlord, this can translate into fake documents for a prospective tenant, leading the landlord to believe the renter is someone he is not.

After a month or two, the rent checks will start bouncing. When the landlord approaches the tenant for a new one, the renter will start complaining about horrible property conditions and refuse to pay the rent. The landlord now has a squatter on his hands and is stuck losing money each month.

Don’t be the next victim! Here’s how to protect yourself:

Don’t rely on credit reports. They are not a clear indicator of a prospective tenant’s financial standing. Ask for genuine proof of income.

Don’t take any documents at face value. Sure, the guy provided you with an electric bill to prove his last place of residence and a pay stub to show he’s gainfully employed. But how do you know those documents aren’t falsified? Check addresses and business names online to make sure you’re getting the real deal.

Do: Look for red flags

The best way to ascertain a tenant’s character is by being alert and aware. Be on the lookout for any red flags in the application process and when the prospective tenant comes by for a property check.

Is the listed income too high for the tenant’s appearance or job description?

Did the tenant show up unfashionably late for the property check?

Are there gaps in the tenant’s rental history?

Are the tenant’s children unusually rowdy?

Pay attention to every detail now to avoid disappointment later.

Don’t: Accept employer’s checks

In yet another tenant scam, a prospective renter will tell you he’s moving to your location for a job. His employer will send you a check for the first month’s rent, only the check is made out for a much larger amount than you need. The tenant will then ask you to pay him the difference before you cash the check.  Of course, by the time you send him the change, he will be long gone. Worse yet, when you try to cash the check, it’ll bounce.

Avoid these scams by refusing to accept any checks from a prospective tenant’s “employer.”

Do: Create a comprehensive residential tenancy agreement

This document will establish the terms of the working relationship between you and your tenant. Get as detailed as possible. Having everyone’s rights and responsibilities clearly documented can ultimately prevent disaster. You’ll have this agreement on hand to refer to in case of any challenges or disagreements that arise.

Before you sign up with any tenant, make sure they check out!

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Preparing Your Properties for Hurricane Season

by Steven Pasternack on September 28, 2017 , Comments Off on Preparing Your Properties for Hurricane Season

The recent weeks have brought unprecedented, record breaking hurricanes that have wreaked havoc on many of the Caribbean Islands and southern states. Thankfully New York has been spared from their damaging effects, but New Yorkers are not in the clear just yet.  Hurricanes can blow in anytime from early June through the end of November, with the worst storms often hitting late in the season. In fact, meteorologists and environmental researchers claim that the current combination of above-average sea surface temperatures and weak wind shear will give rise to one of the worst hurricane seasons New York has ever seen. And with their accompanying torrential downpours and winds coming in at anywhere from 40 to 111 MPH, hurricanes can have devastating effects on properties – and lives.

As a landlord, you want to do your all to keep your tenants and your property safe when coastal storms make their landfall. Hopefully, you’ve already taken all the precautions you can and are fully prepared for any eventuality. It’s always a good idea to take a second look, though, and to make sure all of your safety precautions are in place.

Sounds daunting? No worries; Jack Jaffa & Associates is here to walk you through the entire process. We’ll keep you safe and dry when the wet winds blow in!

Use this handy guide as a checklist for all your properties and be sure to review it periodically.

1. Check your insurance coverage

Your first step towards protecting your properties against storm damage is determining that you have adequate insurance coverage. Review your policy carefully to be sure it covers all damage caused by flooding and strong winds. If your coverage seems insufficient, you may want to consider upgrading your policy to one that offers more substantial protection.

2. Protect your property against flooding

One of the most devastating effects of hurricanes is extensive flooding caused by high storm surges. Be sure to clean your gutters and downspouts and check that you have working drains and pipes around your buildings. Use the next small rainfall to see whether the drainage on and around your property works seamlessly, or if water gathers in certain areas. Take note of which locations need fixing and don’t waste any time making the necessary repairs. A minor fix-up today can save you thousands of dollars in damages tomorrow.

3. Inspect your property’s structure

Check your properties carefully to ensure that there are no structural issues that a hurricane can worsen. Tenuous roofs, loose shingles, and weak supportive walls provide easy access for strong winds which can do substantial damage to your entire property.

If there is a severe hurricane watch in your area, you may want to consider boarding up your windows, especially the ones facing the side expecting the strongest winds. It’s also smart to seal all windows and doors so that water can’t get inside.

4. Review your evacuation route

While weather reports usually afford residents with enough time to evacuate the city should it become necessary, as a landlord, you need to be sure your tenants have a clear sense of the evacuation route from your building if conditions suddenly become dangerous. A sign detailing the evacuation route must be posted in a prominent public area. It’s best to distribute copies of this route to each tenant before a storm hits.

5. Last-minute precautions

When a hurricane warning or watch is in effect, it’s best to take last-minute precautions to protect your property. Cover external air conditioning units with tarps or garbage bags to prevent damage by airborne projectiles. Do a quick scan of your property’s exterior to check for scattered garbage or any loose-hanging branches. Patch any visible foundation cracks around your building. If you have a sump pump, clear any debris and check that it’s operating properly to prevent clogging. As mentioned, clear your gutters and consider sealing and boarding up your windows and doors.

Hurricanes can cause extensive damage and demand extensive preparation on your part. Here at Jack Jaffa & Associates, we’re all about making your role as a landlord easier. We’ll get you through this stormy season with minimal damage and even less stress!

Our thoughts are with all those who suffered from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria.

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How to Raise the Rent

by Mindy Datik on September 15, 2017 , Comments Off on How to Raise the Rent

As a landlord, one of your biggest challenges is keeping your tenants happy and your own business sense satisfied. You want to stay profitable, but at the same time, you don’t want to scare any tenants away.

Raising the rent requires a delicate blend of marketing research, legal compliance, and public relations. It is also key to earning the true value on your property.

How often should you raise the rent, and by how much? Is there a specific procedure to follow? The process can seem overwhelming and confusing, with so many variables at play.

No worries; as always, Jack Jaffa & Associates has got your back! We’re here to make all aspects of tenant management easier for you – and raising the rent is no exception.

To that end, we’ve compiled a handy guide that will take the stress out of raising the rent. In this article, you’ll find all you need to know on this topic, including NYC’s laws on how and when you can raise the rent, along with actionable tips to keep the process simple.

When to Raise the Rent

If you own rent-stabilized units, you can’t raise your tenant’s rent during a rent freeze, regardless of how long it’s been since the last increase. Luckily, NYC’s two-year rent freeze on more than 1 million rent-stabilized units throughout the city, has just been lifted.

Effective October, 2017, landlords of rent-stabilized units can increase rent from 1-3% on 1-year leases, and 2-4% on 2-year leases.

If you haven’t raised your rent because of the freeze, now is the time to determine your new rent amount.

If you don’t own rent-controlled units, you’ll need to check your tenant’s lease. On the lease agreement, the rent amount and lease term are clearly indicated. You will not be able to raise the rent if your tenant is currently signed onto a lease.

If the tenant is on a month-to-month agreement, where there is no written lease or an expired lease has shifted the rental to a month-to-month tenancy, you can raise the rent at any time, so long as you give sufficient notice. Keep in mind, though, that most tenants find smaller, more frequent increases more manageable than dramatic increases over lengthier periods of time.

If the end of a tenant’s lease term is approaching, now is a good time to consider a rent increase. When drawing up a new lease, be sure to include the new rent amount in the lease.

TIP: If you stipulate that there will be an automatic rent increase at the end of the lease term, you’ll prevent any unpleasant surprises for your tenant.

How to Determine New Rent

Now that you’ve decided it’s a good time to raise the rent, you’ll need to determine the actual raise amount. Raise it too much, and you risk losing your tenants. Keep it too low, and you’re not earning the profit you deserve. So how do you find that perfect amount?

First, you’ll need to gather information on five comparable rental properties in your area. Find out what the going price is so that you can be sure you’re charging a reasonable amount. You can get these numbers by searching actual listings, asking local tenants, or simply by checking Craigslist, Zillow, and Rentometer. Make sure, though, that you are looking at rentals as similar to yours as possible, including numbers of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, outdoor space, amenities and parking spaces.

Determining the market price is a great starting point, but it shouldn’t be the sole factor in your decision. Be sure to take into account any advantages your property offers over the competition, as well as disadvantages it might have.

TIP: Rent increases of 2-3% fall within the average range.

How to Raise the Rent

Before taking any steps towards raising the rent, make sure that you are in compliance with state law.

Of course, if your properties are rent-controlled, you are not allowed to increase the rent.

But it gets more complicated than that.

Raising the rent in a discriminatory manner, or as an act of retaliation, can land you in court and create a nightmare of litigation and fines. It is not difficult for your client to prove that you’ve raised the rent for one of these reasons – all they need is to demonstrate a slight correlation between a recent event and a rent raise. That’s why you should not raise the rent if you’ve just discovered a client’s race, gender orientation, national origin, religion, disability or familial status. Similarly, do not increase the rent if your tenant filed an official complaint with a government authority, has been involved in a tenant’s organization, or exercised a legal right within the last 180 days. Raising the rent in these situations can constitute an act of retaliation.

If you are certain your raise doesn’t fall into any of the above categories, make sure you are in compliance with NY’s notification requirements.  NY law requires landlords to give 30 days’ notice before implementing a raise in the rent.

Notify your tenant of the rent increase with an official letter that includes the new rental amount and the date it becomes effective. Sign and date the letter and keep a copy of the document for your records. It’s best to hand-deliver the letter or send it through certified mail so you can be sure that your tenant received it. It’s also courteous to send a follow-up email or phone message reminding your tenant of the new rent amount, immediately before the rent is due.

Be prepared for the tenant to get a little annoyed at the rent increase and maybe even try to negotiate the price. Remain as professional and polite as possible. Calmly explain that you are simply raising the rent to reflect the current market rate, and that you value your tenant.

Hopefully, you’ll tenant will agree to the raise with minimal fuss. In this case, when drawing up a new lease, make sure it reflects the increase. Of course, there is always a possibility that your tenant will use the rent increase as an excuse to up and leave. If this happens, be sure to part on cordial terms.

TIP: It always pays to be courteous. When tenants feel cared for, valued, and respected, they are more likely to stay.

Raising the rent doesn’t have to be complicated. So long as you’re not locked into a lease or held back by a rent freeze, your increase falls within market parameters, and you are in compliance with all relevant NYC laws, it can be a simple, stress-free process.

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