Intro No. 385-B Relating to Indoor Allergens

TESTIMONY

of

Carl Hum

Senior Vice President

Management Services and Government Affairs

The Real Estate Board of New York

before the

New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings

on

Introduction No. 385-B

 

M E M O R A N D U M  O F  O P P O S I T I O N

DATE: June 13, 2017

INTRO NO: 385-B

SUBJECT: Owners’ Responsibilities in Relation to Indoor Allergen Hazards

SUMMARY: Sets forth owners’ responsibilities to remediate or keep multiple dwellings free from pests and indoor allergens. Establishes a classification system for indoor allergen hazards and dates of correction for such violations. Repeals section 27-2018 of the administrative code.

SPONSORS: Mendez, Torres, Johnson, Chin, Constantinides, Cumbo, Koo, Reynoso, Rodriguez, Rose, Levine, Koslowitz, Rosenthal, Richards, Palma, Lander, Levin, Menchaca, Lancman, Dromm , Barron, Kallos, Ferreras-Copeland, Crowley, King, Gibson, Cabrera, Mealy, Maisel, Miller, Cornegy, Wills, Eugene, Van Bramer, Salamanca, Jr., Gentile, Vacca, Espinal, Jr., Cohen,  Williams, Garodnick, Greenfield, Treyger, Deutsch, Grodenchik, Perkins, Ulrich, The Public Advocate (Ms. James)

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) represents over 17,000 owners, developers, managers and brokers of real property in New York City. REBNY supports the Council’s efforts to address instances of poor indoor air quality, which has affected thousands of New Yorkers, including over 100,000 children; however, REBNY opposes Intro No. 385-B due to its unreasonable timeframes and the onerous responsibilities the bill promises to impose upon owners.

Intro 385-B grants the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DoHMH) the ability to issue a violation within 20 days of receiving a complaint if a condition or underlying defect is detected. While the bill exempts owners who begin correcting conditions prior to violation deadlines, this exception does not account for instances where owners are not notified by tenants. Mold remediation can be a lengthy process which can be delayed due to, among others issues, financing, vendor scheduling, and accessibility to occupied units. However, the bill only grants violation extensions to owners who cannot meet deadlines for class C violations, but not more egregious violations.

According to the DoHMH, early detection of indoor air quality issues, such as water leaks, stained walls, dampness on windows, musty or earthy odor and peeling or bubbling paint is based primarily on visual indicators.[1] For continuously occupied units, successful and early detection depends on the tenant’s participation. The bill fails to take into account unit accessibility in early detection.

Similarly, requiring owners to perform full, annual inspections might be practical when unit occupancy turns over; however, compliance is more difficult when the units are continuously occupied. Additionally, the Council should consider how this legislation will work with Intro No. 978-A, which requires owners to hire licensed mold professionals to perform mold assessments. Would owners then be expected to hire licensed mold professionals to proceed with remediation? If so, this would invalidate Intro 385-B’s provisions allowing for owners to determine and act upon underlying defects. Moreover, Intro 385-B’s intention to have allergens immediately addressed would be defeated by Intro 978-A’s mandatory, 14-day delay between a performed mold assessment and mold related work.

Furthermore, the bill classifies the presence of any mold as an indoor mold hazard requiring action. REBNY recommends the Council redefine its threshold for mold as mold may not be easily detected and may be hidden within walls or floorboards.[2]

Lastly, we urge the Council to amend the legislation’s education initiative to include a component mandating tenant reporting to owner. An education component must also emphasize tenant responsibility, such as diligent reporting.

For the reasons set forth above, REBNY OPPOSES INTRO No. 385-B.

 

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[1]Air Quality: Indoor Moisture. NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Web. Accessed June 6, 2017. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/air-quality-indoor-moisture.page

[2] Finn, Robin. Mold, Come Out With Your Hands Up. The New York Times. May 3, 2013. Web. Accessed June 6, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/realestate/bill-sothern-remediates-mold-and-other-hazards.html