For Immediate Release: September 1, 2021
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 393-2126
DOB LAUNCHES HOMEOWNER RELIEF PROGRAM
New Initiatives Designed to Reduce Burdens on Small Homeowners and Increase Compliance
New York, NY - The Department of Buildings announced today the start of a first ever Homeowner Relief Program in New York City, designed to help small property owners of one- and two-family homes avoid DOB fines, by giving them the time and opportunity to fix code violations in their homes discovered during DOB inspections. This new program is accompanied by a set of new initiatives designed to educate homeowners about their legal requirements as property owners in New York City and bring their buildings up to code, without unduly burdening them with violations and steep fines.
“Simply issuing punishing fines to those who can least afford them is hardly the best outcome for achieving compliance,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “I am proud to announce these new initiatives designed to help small homeowners get their properties up to code and avoid fines, which ultimately means a safer city for everyone.”
With the launch of our Homeowner Relief Program, now when a DOB inspector finds a violating condition at a one- and two-family home, property owners who are eligible for the program will not immediately be issued violations, but instead they will be informed of what the violating condition is, and be ordered to fix the issue within 60 days. DOB can and will support these small property owners to ensure that the violating conditions have been properly corrected, at which point the issue can be dismissed and no further enforcement actions will be taken by the Department.
The new program is open to all owners of one- and two-family homes in New York City that have not received a DOB-issued violation in the past five years, and also to new owners who have recently purchased a one- or two-family home. Violating conditions found by DOB at a property related to illegal conversions, and violating conditions that are associated with a confirmed injury or death are not eligible for the Homeowner Relief Program.
In addition to this new initiative, the Department is announcing rule changes to our existing curable violation program, to provide small homeowners with even more opportunities to avoid financial penalties when they are issued summonses for code and zoning violations. This rule change extends the cure period for non-safety related violations issued by DOB for all one- and two-family home owners from 40 days to 60 days, giving these New Yorkers more opportunities to bring their buildings up to code, while avoiding potential fines. Violations issued by DOB for non-safety related issues, specifically all Class 3 violations and many Class 2 violations, are currently eligible to be “cured”, meaning that if property owners demonstrate to the Department that the violating conditions have been quickly remediated, the violation can be resolved without an OATH hearing and without associated penalties.
The Department is also announcing a new educational initiative for new building owners, so that they are aware of their new responsibilities as a property owner in our City. As part of that initiative, the Department has created a first-of-its-kind resource letter for new owners of buildings and condominiums. Following the purchase of a building or condominium in NYC, owners will receive a letter from the Department that provides a wealth of information about their new property including details of any outstanding summonses and how to resolve them, open permits and how to sign-off the work, any periodic inspections that are required to be performed, and how to work with the Department should the owner choose to perform any construction work.
“Fixing a Department of Buildings violation can be confusing for owners of small properties, and this sort of stress does not help compliance with safety laws. The Homeowner Relief Program offers a path to cure building violations so that the DOB and owners work together. As Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee, I am very pleased our city is working to find new ways to cooperate with owners for the benefit of all New York,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.
“We’ve strived for years to provide homeowners educational tools to avoid burdensome and punitive fines through workshops and proactive outreach. Navigating the minutiae of government without the proper resources is difficult, and puts additional hurdles on families with one and two-family homes looking to build generational wealth. Unfortunately, the needs of homeowners are too often forgotten in a city where the homeownership rate hovers at 33%, but yet our communities continue to comprise a significant part of the city's tax base, this despite being hit hard by the pandemic. An expanded cure period, technical support, and increased collaboration are all welcome reforms. I commend the Department of Buildings for launching this new homeownership relief program and creating a more productive mechanism for resolving violations while supporting homeowners,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus.
"This program gives homeowners a welcome break when it comes to fines for minor violations, while still achieving the goal of bringing their homes up to code. The information provided to property owners under this program will help the DOB work with them, not against them. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, homeowners need all the help they can get," said Council Member Robert Holden.
"I applaud the Department of Building’s efforts to ease the burden on already struggling city homeowners and to help familiarize themselves with their legal responsibilities. I hope that we can employ this same mode of thinking—namely financial unburdening—to more property classifications going forward," said Council Member Mark Gjonaj.
"I applaud the Department of Buildings on the launch of the Homeowner Relief Program, which exemplifies the sort of community-focused approach we need to be taking to issues such as this one citywide,"said Council Member Carlina Rivera. "To rely solely on fines to encourage compliance is to assume homeowners with violating conditions are remaining out of compliance by choice - we know this is not the case. This new program provides homeowners with the resources and guidance they need to move into compliance, thus reducing the financial burden and ensuring we can keep all New Yorkers safe in their homes."
“Thank to you NYC DOB for initiating this important educational program for new homeowners. Oftentimes new homeowners are unaware of the various permits and requirements necessary to renovate or improve their homes. This is especially the case for many immigrant new homeowners who may also face additional language or cultural barriers when attempting to navigate and understand local rules and regulations,” said Council Member Peter Koo. “By proactively providing education and more time to take corrective action, NYC is giving new homeowners a chance to learn what they can and cannot do with their properties and to correct any misunderstandings and honest mistakes before they become costly financial penalties and violations.”
“With all of the economic challenges that small homeowners are facing due to the pandemic, government has a responsibility to do all we can to help rather than hinder their recovery,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee. “I commend this program for its pro-active approach in educating homeowners so that they can remain in compliance and avoid costly violations before they get a chance to happen.”
“We applaud the Department of Buildings for taking new steps to work with property owners on ensuring code compliance while avoiding burdensome fines,” said REBNY President James Whelan. “Increasing the level of communication between DOB and property owners will play an important role in advancing our shared goal of maintaining safe buildings throughout New York City.”
“One and Two-Family homeowners need support through these difficult times, and I applaud DOB and the Mayor for recognizing this with their Homeowner Relief Program,” said Council Member Paul Vallone, “It is imperative that we work with all New Yorkers to help them recover from the devastating past year.”
“Over the years, I have heard from countless homeowners who were understandably upset by violations issued by the buildings department," said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik. "Educating rather than penalizing homeowners will help keep buildings safe across the city while saving residents from grief and stress."