Comments on the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development Proposed Rules on Indoor Allergen Hazards

VIEW THE PROPOSED RULES

As the City’s leading real estate trade association, the Real Estate Board of New York (“REBNY”) submits these comments on behalf of its membership which is comprised of commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers and brokers.

Pursuant to Local Law 55 of 2018, and effective January 19, 2019, building owners must investigate and remediate for underlying conditions, such as water leaks, entryway paths or harborages, that could give rise to mold, pest infestations, and allergen hazards in multiple dwellings. The law requires owners to perform annual inspections in units and common areas of the building. The law calls for owners to notify new and existing tenants of these responsibilities within lease agreements and by providing a pamphlet from the NYC Department of Health (DOHMH), which the agency is currently developing.

REBNY has the following specific comments to offer on the proposed rules:

Infestation
An Indoor allergen hazard is defined as any infestation of cockroaches, mice, rats or mold, however, the law and the proposed rules are silent on what amounts to an infestation. If possible, HPD should provide clear guidance by assigning a numerical definition to the term to inform building owners of whether further action or remediation should be pursued following the inspection. Additional guidance from DOHMH on how inspections could be conducted would assist owners in complying with the law. Lastly, in the pamphlet, DOHMH should include suggested preventative actions tenants can take to prevent pest infestations and indoor allergens within their living spaces. The law only requires that inspections be performed once a year, but consistently unhygienic or dusty conditions can give rise to hazardous conditions even after a building owner has followed the law.

Upcoming Changes to Local Law 55 of 2018

The City Council introduced amendments to correct errors in the law through Intro 780. Currently, the proposed rules, if unchanged, would codify the existing law without the proposed revisions to the language the Council is hopeful it will pass. HPD should amend the proposed rules to align with the expected changes that will be made to Local Law 55 and to clearly communicate how buildings may comply.

Cooperatives and Condominiums

The law does not address how it will apply to cooperatives and condominiums, which are owned as individual units. Specifically, further amendments to the proposed rules should address this by clarifying the responsibility of the boards with respect to underlying conditions in interior spaces. Mold resulting from continuously damp conditions resulting from steam showers, for example, should be clearly assigned to individual shareholders to remediate. Lastly, the sample notice provided by HPD should be redrafted as it can be applied to cooperatives and rental units, but not condominiums.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments. REBNY looks forward to working with HPD to make further changes to the proposed rules.