Allen H. Brill, Partner, Phillips Nizer
It’s the law. Every five years, buildings taller than six stories must inspect and repair their facades under the Facade Inspection & Safety Program, which used to be known as Local Law 11. There’s another law that basically says that a property owner adjacent to the building where such mandatory repairs are being performed must, in effect, give access to the party doing the work in order to protect the adjacent property and the public.
Time to negotiate. The parties should start by talking to each other. Basically, you try to negotiate what’s called an access agreement or a license agreement, which would set out the terms on how long the work will run, whether there will be any fees involved, and who would pay for the legal fees and engineering fees of the property owner who is being impacted.
You can’t always get what you want. In any negotiation, don’t think that you can dictate to the other party. You need to have cooperation because today you may need to do facade work, and a year or two from now the adjacent building may need to do facade work. And going to court is not a simple process. First, you have to establish that you did try to work it out. Then you get to court, and there’s a battle between lawyers that could cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. But every building above six stories is going to have to deal with facade work. So it’s best to work with your neighbor.