Avoid DOB and HPD Violations / Complaints: NYC Property Owners 101

Avoid DOB and HPD Violations

If you’ve ever received a fine from the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) or the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) then you know the amounts of time and money that have to be spent. The necessary steps involve not only the process of correcting the issue, but filing the paperwork in order to have the violations lifted.

Recently, HPD has streamlined the process by allowing landlords to clear up outstanding violation online through e-certify , while the DOB bureaucracy remains somewhat more difficult to untangle without specialized knowledge, or in many cases, professional legal help.

“People can have a long-term life plan only if they know their private property is secure.” – Mengzi, 4th Century B.C.

Understanding DOB/HPD Violations and Complaints

In addition to recurring fines, open violations from either department also means that a Certificate of Occupancy cannot be issued by DOB — which will legally prevent you from selling or refinancing your property. While this may be common knowledge to many longtime private homeowners, something you may not realize is the potential consequences of an open complaint — something which can be filed by literally anyone at any time using the city’s 311 website.

The good news is that a complaint cannot by itself legally tie your hands from taking out a home equity loan or closing on a property. The bad news however, is that it may mean consequences further down the road. Also, while a violation is well within your power as a building owner to correct, rectifying a complaint is completely out of your hands until it leads to an inspection — and is either administratively resolved, or develops into an actual violation.

Types of DOB and HPD Violations

Most HPD violations can be separated into three categories, with increased penalties for violations deemed health hazards — particularly those having to do with heat, hot water, or toxic substances such as lead paint:

  • Class A Violation – is one the city classifies as non-hazardous. They are generally $10 to $50 per violation. One exception includes $250 for not posting a sign showing tenants where to find the NYC Housing Information Guide.
  • Class B Violation – is considered hazardous for tenants. An open Class B can mean fines of $25 to $100 each, in addition to $10 per violation every day it remains outstanding.
  • Class C violation – is the most serious category as it is identified as one that is immediately hazardous. For owners of properties with five or fewer units, the fines start at $50 for each violation — and for each day it goes unresolved. If your building contains more than five apartments, you can be charged between $50 and $150 per violation, and another $125 daily until they are corrected. If these violations involve heat or hot water violations then, they are ratcheted up to between $250 and $500 per day for an initial violation — and $500 to $1,000 per day for each consecutive one. Lead-based paint offenses can cost as much as $250 per day, up to a ceiling of $10,000.

Specific descriptions of the many categories of DOB violations and complaints are a bit more unwieldy. Generally speaking, they involve noncompliance with existing laws regarding construction and other safety or quality of life violations. There are more than 50 types of DOB violations, including specifics such as boiler and plumbing violations as well as more general unsafe building conditions, not to mention over 100 types of DOB complaints. Existing cases can be tracked using DOB’s online query system.

How to Protect Yourself from DOB / HPD Violations 

You can (and should) try to stay current with your legal responsibilities, as well as your  property’s status, using available resources — such as the HPD Housing Guide and the DOB Buildings Information System.

As always, if you think you’re in over your head, please seek out the help of a trained lawyer who specializes in either HPD or DOB regulations before making any major moves. One of the first steps in doing what you need to as a landlord also involves staying in compliance with your HPD and DOB signage.

All required signs can be purchase as a package set — which includes FDNY required notices, from HPD Signs NY — or you can call (718) 213-7467 in order to ask about specific types of city-compliant postings.

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