New York City tenants can now breathe easy!

On January 19th, 2018, the New York City Council passed Local Law 55 of 2018, the “Asthma-Free Housing Act.” The bill was created to fight rising asthma rates and to improve the quality of life for the more than one million asthmatic New Yorkers.

Local Law 55 will take effect in just a few days, on January 19th, 2019.

Let’s take a look at some of the key components of Local Law 55 and review your responsibilities and obligations for compliance.

What is Local Law 55?

Local Law 55 requires all multiple-dwelling property owners in NYC to investigate and remove all indoor health hazards which trigger asthma, like mold, rodents, and cockroaches. Landlords must also apply safe and successful measures to ensure that their properties remain free of indoor health hazards.

What do I need to do now?

As a landlord, you have two primary calls to action for compliance with Local Law 55: investigate and remediate.

Let’s explore what each of these steps entails.

  1. You’ll need to initiate an investigation by a licensed professional for all indoor allergen hazards in occupied units and in common areas of your building(s), as well as conditions that are conducive to allergen hazards. Indoor allergen hazards include indoor infestations of cockroaches, mice or rats; or conditions that are vulnerable to infestations of these pests. It also includes mold that is growing on an indoor surface, building structure, ventilation system, or within wall cavities; and mold that is hidden behind interior obstructions and furniture.
  1. You must take responsible measures to keep your property free from indoor allergen hazards and pests, and from conditions that are conducive to indoor allergen hazards. You will also need to eradicate any existing indoor allergen hazards or conditions that are conducive to indoor allergen hazards.

How often do I need to investigate for indoor allergen hazards?

According to Local Law 55, you are required to initiate an investigation once a year. You must also perform an investigation whenever it is deemed necessary, such as when an occupant complains about a condition that may cause an indoor allergen hazard, when an occupant requests an inspection, or when the DOB issues a notice of violation or violation order.

Do I need to inform my tenants about the specifications of Local Law 55?

When the new law takes effect, you will need to include a notice about your obligations for compliance with Local Law 55 in all tenant leases. This notice must be approved by the DOB and must be available in multiple languages.

How can I protect my property from pests?

To comply with Local Law 55, your building(s) must be effectively sealed from pests, including rodents and cockroaches.

Here’s how to ensure your property stays pest-free:

  • Repair and seal any existing holes, gaps or cracks in walls, ceilings, floors, moldings, base boards, around pipes and conduits, or around and within cabinets. To effectively remove these possible points of entry for pests, use durable materials such as sealants, plaster, cement, wood or escutcheon plates.
  • Attach door sweeps to doors leading to a hallway, basement, or outside the building to reduce gaps to no more than one-quarter inch.

Violations for noncompliance

The DOB is cracking down hard on landlords who are not compliant with Local Law 55.

The presence of visible mold that is less than 10 square feet in a single room of a dwelling will constitute an indoor mold hazard violation. Mold that measures between 10 square feet and 30 square feet in a single room will constitute a hazardous violation.

Penalties for violations vary according to incidence and can be as steep as $10,000 per violation. As mentioned, any incidence of indoor allergen hazards must be corrected. Certification of Correction by licensed professionals must be obtained and promptly submitted to the DOB.

How can I correct a mold violation?

If your inspection reveals the existence of mold in your building, you’ll need to take immediate steps to correct it so that you’re not issued a violation. But you can’t just call down any mold specialist to zap that stuff off your walls; the HPD has very specific criteria for who can perform a remediation for mold.

According to Local Law 55, a mold hazard must be assessed and remediated by both a NYS licensed Mold Assessor and a NYS licensed Mold Remediator.

You will need to perform an investigation annually and you may need to remediate several times a year as well. It is therefore a good idea to have one or more of your maintenance staff receive certification as a Mold Assessor and a Mold Remediator.

How can I prevent mold from growing in my building?

Local Law 55 is especially challenging for landlords. After all, they’re expected to control the growth and spread of mold, an allergen hazard that often grows out of sight.

You can help prevent the growth of mold with these simple steps:

  • Educate your tenants about moisture intrusion and mold-related practices.
  • Use a Relative Humidity (RH) meter and thermal imaging to assess the levels of RH in your building. Keep the RH below 60% as that is the point at which mold is likely to grow and spread.
  • Repair any envelope leaks in your building promptly.

The latest amendment to the NYC compliance code means more obligations for you as a landlord, but don’t sweat it! Here at Jack Jaffa & Associates, we’ve got you covered. Call or stop by to learn how we can help you comply with Local Law 55.

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