Yesterday the Loft Board held their first board meeting of 2013.
Rule 2-01 loophole
NYCLT was glad to see the board acknowledge in Rule 2-01 that “no work”, as it had been drafted, was a potential loophole in which landlords could have made spurious claims about compliance. The board is now amending this rule to require all buildings to go through the Narrative Statement process. If a building does not need compliance work, the landlord will still need to file a Narrative Statement saying so, giving tenants a chance to bring up problems with the building (and not socking them with all the compliance increases at once).
We commend the Loft Board for listening to the community and architects in making this fine decision.
The Loft Board will soon publish its annual report online.
Map of buildings
Lanny Alexander shared a new map of registered buildings with the board. She focused on Brooklyn and Manhattan IMDs. Because of the number of buildings concentrated in certain areas the map focuses on zip codes, not addresses. In the future the DOB is supposed to help develop a larger map to show individual buildings. Board members requested further information about building types and zones to better understand the trend from an urban planning perspective.
(Coincidentally NYCLT and NAG is working on a database of buildings by address and community board to better understand what areas, community leaders and politicians might benefit from more information about the Loft Law.)
The Fire Department was interested in getting more information about the number of units and tenants for fire safety issues – the board encouraged the Fire Department to send local fire houses to make inspections of their neighborhoods for these details since Loft Board applications don’t encompass the entire story of a building. Lanny reminded Chief Spadafora that these buildings are going through the legalization process and may not be fully up-to-code at this time. NYCLT hopes that FD inspectors will be aware of the Loft Law process and the time that it takes to get covered and legalized.
The board also discussed fines for Failure to Take Reasonable and Necessary Action to Legalize the Building (Rule 2-01.1). It is the opinion of board staff that “Failure to Take Reasonable and Necessary Action” is itself a violation (not the lack of progress) and can be issued over and over until the landlord gets to work. In the old Loft Law, landlords could only be fined $1000/year for failing to make steps towards compliance; now it looks like they could be fined $1000/day!
There were two options on the table:
- $1k a day per violation without a cap
- $1k a day per violation with a cap of $17,500 (or 17.5 days): after 17.5 the building would go into a 30 day window in which time the board would expect a landlord to answer the violation, “come in to talk” or offer a schedule of resolution. If there was no response after 30 days the board would renew the 17.5 cycle for the same violation.
Some board members were in favor of the “no cap” method. It seems possible some landlords could budget for the $17,500 fine every 30 days and ignore the violation. One board member suggested the board double the rate of the fine every day the violation is ignored. Other members went in the other direction and thought the board would be at risk of “putting people out of business” with exorbitant fines. One member asked if the board would have the option to reduce a fine to $500/day if they felt the landlord was trying but simply needed more time. In the end the majority of the board was in favor of the 17.5 cap cycle.