The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Enforcement Department works to ensure that owners of designated properties comply with the Landmarks Law. The Landmarks Law requires that permits are obtained before making most types of exterior changes and interior work that requires a Department of Buildings permit. Most alterations to designated properties without an LPC permit or work done in noncompliance with an LPC permit are violations of the Landmarks Law. Landmarks are also required to be maintained in a condition of good repair.
Enforcement staff members investigate ongoing work, recent changes to landmarks and even changes made many years ago, including changes made prior to the current landmark ownership. Work done by a prior owner may have been performed without permits and is the responsibility of the current owner, even though he or she did not do the work. Paying a fine does not remove an underlying violation.
Because the main objective of LPC enforcement efforts is to have violations corrected and to protect our landmarks, under most circumstances there are two grace periods for owners to correct violations without any financial penalty – once after a Warning Letter is issued and a second one after a Notice of Violation is issued. If the owner of the property with the violation has any questions, it is highly recommended that the owner contact the Enforcement staff to discuss the violation and how to address it.
1. Warning Letters
When the Enforcement staff learns of a violation, usually the first step is to issue a Warning Letter to the owner. The Warning Letter gives owners an opportunity to correct an illegal condition without paying a fine (the first grace period). The letter briefly describes the illegal condition and requests that the owner apply to correct the condition. Penalties are not assessed if the matter is quickly resolved.
Do not ignore a Warning Letter, even if the violation predates your ownership or control of the property or if you dispute the violation. Please contact the Commission if you have questions.
If a violation is committed intentionally, a Warning Letter may not be sent and more immediate action may be taken.
2. Notice of Violation (NOV)
If the violation is not corrected following the Warning Letter, the second step is often issuance of a NOV. This notice provides a second grace period and sets a date for a hearing at the Environmental Control Board (ECB). Do not ignore the Notice of Violation. Contact the Commission if you have questions.
3. Stop Work Orders
Stop Work Orders (SWO) are issued when illegal work is on-going. When a SWO issued, all illegal work must stop immediately once the construction site has been made safe. The property owner or contractor should contact the LPC Enforcement staff if a SWO has been issued. Ignoring a SWO will result in additional fines and penalties.
4. Certificate of Correction
A Certificate of Correction may be included at the back of the NOV forms, and offers a final chance for the owner/recipient to plead guilty to the violation and avoid fines.
5. Environmental Control Board Hearing
If the owner/recipient does not take advantage of the grace periods, or wants to contest the NOV, a hearing will be held at the Environmental Control Board where they can argue his or her case. If the court finds that a violation has occurred, a civil penalty will be assessed. The ECB hearing is unrelated to the public hearing held by the Landmarks Commission. The ECB hearing is not the forum for arguing that the work at issue is appropriate to the landmark. The ECB hearing is largely limited to the issue of whether work was performed without a permit or in noncompliance with a permit or if technical requirements concerning the service of the NOV were met. Valid defenses at the ECB hearing include having a landmark permit to do the work or that the work at issue predates the designation of the property as a landmark. Ignorance of landmark status or need for permits are not valid defenses.
If the owner/recipient fails to cure the violation even after a NOV, the Commission may issue subsequent NOVs until the violation is cured. The subsequent NOVs are not accompanied by grace periods.