(Originally published November 22, 2019)
What is Local Law 55?
If you are like most property owners in New York, you are just starting to hear about Local Law 55 and how it will affect you moving forward. Also known as the “Asthma-Free Housing Act”, the law requires all landlords of NYC buildings containing three or more apartments to annually investigate and remove indoor allergen hazards in each residential unit.
Local Law 55 went into effect on January 19, 2019 and is intended to combat rising asthma rates while improving the quality of life for the large number of current asthmatics in NYC. It is imperative that all landlords educate themselves on the requirements set forth by The Department of Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) Office of Enforcement and Neighborhood Services (ENS). Although there is a lot to unpack when it comes to Local Law 55, reading the next few paragraphs should help provide some clarity.
What are Indoor Allergen Hazards?
As defined in Local Law 55, the term "indoor allergen hazard" means any indoor infestation of:
Mold ("Indoor Mold Hazard")
Conditions conducive to such infestations
So what is an "indoor mold hazard"? As defined in Local Law 55, the term "indoor mold hazard" means any condition of mold growth on indoor surfaces (except on tile or grout) - including growth behind/within wall cavities - or ventilation systems that is likely to cause harm. The presence of visible mold equaling less than 10 square feet constitutes a non-hazardous violation. The event of visible mold equal to or greater than 10 square feet warrants a hazardous violation that requires a full mold assessment and subsequent remediation.
What do You Need to do to Avoid a Violation?
HPD will start issuing violations in January 2020. Administering annual investigations of residential units is not the only thing that Local Law 55 requires. In order to avoid violations, landlords must:
Inspect all residential dwellings with 3 or more units for indoor allergen hazards at least once a year and more often if necessary. Records must be kept on file for each unit.
Provide an annual notice and the Local Law 55 fact sheet (pictured below) to prospective and current tenants at the time of lease renewal.
If necessary, use integrated pest management (IPM) practices to safely control pests and fix building-related issues that lead to pest problems.
If necessary, remove indoor mold and safely fix the problems that cause mold, complying with New York State Labor Law Article 32.
Failure to comply with the requirements as outlined may result in a violation. Violations can range up to $10,000 per unit.
What does an inspection entail?
So what exactly should a "good" inspection entail? The bottom line is that you, as a landlord, want to ensure that you have detailed and accurate documentation that an inspection was conducted and what the conditions were at the time of the inspection. Documentation should include a written report with photographs covering all spaces within the unit so you can prove that the conditions were hazard free at the time of the inspection.
At a bare minimum an inspection should include:
Visual inspection for mold and pests
Checklist of inspected areas and conditions present
Photos of all areas within the unit
Report of findings and certification of completion
A reliable inspection company should go above the bare minimum and keep an eye out for possible areas of concern. He or she should also take extra measure to ensure there are no present conditions that may develop into a future hazard.
A proper inspection should include some or all of the below:
Relative Humidity Measurements
Moisture Meter Measurements
Visual HVAC Condition Assessment
Visual Scan for Conducive Pest Conditions
A thermal imaging camera and/or moisture meter can help to see if there is water intrusion behind walls, under the floor or in other hidden areas. This is extremely helpful in catching potential water damage and mold issues before they manifest themselves and will help protect you from mold and pest issues popping up during the year after you have already completed the annual inspection.
With cooperative tenants, responsive landlords, and experienced inspectors you can comply with Local Law 55 and benefit from a year free of violations. Partnering with a reliable inspection company can make this process painless for a property owner.
What Preventative Measures Can be Taken?
Lastly, as mentioned above, inspections must also be provided if the tenant requests it or if a violation is issued. In order to avoid additional inspection costs, it is important to put preventative measures in place ahead of time. It behooves you to educate your tenants on how to prevent the growth of mold and pest infestations and provide your tenants with the tools they need to help keep their apartments mold and pest free. Some things the tenants can do to help are:
Mold Growth Prevention:
Implement the use of exhaust fans and ventilation in the bathroom when showering
Run the AC and keep relative humidity below 60%
Report any leaks immediately
Pest Infestation Prevention:
Place food in sealed containers
Use garbage cans with lids
Keep the counters and sinks clean
Throw garbage out regularly
Seal any cracks, holes, or gaps in building materials
What's the Bottom Line?
We all know it is hard to keep on top of the ever changing rules and regulations in New York City. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of complying with Local Law 55, or confused while reading the council’s official document, a company like Maypole can help you navigate the new law and minimize any potential time and cost impacts for you and your team.