The city council has passed a new law requiring an inspection of all gas lines every five years. The new regulations take effect in January 2019, but it’s already apparent that the implications for co-ops and condos – especially those on a tight budget – are huge.
The new law mainly requires visual inspections of all exposed gas lines and building service meters, looking for corrosion or rust, as well as using a gas-detection meter in public areas. After the inspection, a report must be filed within 30 days by the licensed master plumber who performed the inspection. If a problem is detected, the plumber must inform the building owner, the utility company, and the Department of Buildings. Failure to submit any of these reports is considered a “major violation.”
The law does not, however, require a pressure test. When a leak is detected, gas service is shut down, and pressure testing is required before gas service can be restored. This test subjects gas lines to much higher stresses than natural gas exerts. This often reveals latent – and costly – leaks, especially in older buildings. It’s part of the nightmare of getting “red-tagged” after a gas leak.
“Most New Yorkers are unaware of the costs involved should a leak be discovered in their building,” says Charles M. Zsebedics, general manager at Amalgamated Houses co-op in the Bronx. “This new local law will expose buildings to test for safety, and that’s a good thing. The flip side is if a leak occurs, and you have to shut it down, it’s an enormous expense that almost no building has enough funds in reserves to deal with.” Depending on the size of the building and the extent of gas leaks, Zsebedics says, repairs could cost millions of dollars.
“This [law] will affect the industry,” says Phil Kraus, president at Fred Smith Plumbing & Heating. “Under the new law, a plumber has to verify whether exposed piping is in good condition. Should that inspection not be done properly, then the plumber, the building, the board, the real estate company – they all become at risk. Because of that, you just have to make sure that the job is done properly. What the city and Con Ed seem to be doing is putting additional responsibility on the buildings and the contractors. What’s happening here is a transfer of liability; the building is basically [being held] more responsible for their gas piping.”
The ability of a substance to transmit light rays so that it’s possible to see through it. Also, a state of being clear, candid, easily understood, and free of concealment or guile. In this month’s issue, “Transparency Rules” (page 48) looks at a new law designed to eliminate conflicts of interest and bring transparency to the workings of co-op and condo boards.