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Don’t Rubber Stamp an Engineer’s Report

Jackeline Monzon in Building Operations on August 29, 2017

Lower East Side, Manhattan

Question Professionals
Aug. 29, 2017

INSIDE TRACK: The following article appears in the July/August issue of Habitat, “Insider Tips From 47 Top Management Leaders.”

When we first started our management company, we took over a Lower East Side co-op that had an engineer who had done a Local Law 11 report that I questioned. He was saying that the report showed that there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed. When I did my own visual inspection, it just didn’t add up to me. I’m not an engineer, but the excessive amount of work that he reported wasn’t visible to me. After reviewing the report, I saw that most of it was done through binoculars. I questioned a lot of it. I asked the board if they would be willing to change engineering companies. We did.

That new engineer bore me out. “This is wrong,” he said. “Half of this stuff doesn’t need to be done. Why is he putting this down?” I replied, “Well, he’s been fired. Let’s get a new report.” He hadn’t even done drawings for the property yet. When the new engineer came in, he did a drop and a boom lift and noticed more things on the previous engineer’s report that were incorrect.

It’s very important that a board reviews these reports. Be wary if you see that they’re looking at your facade with binoculars only. Don’t allow it. Sometimes you need to spend a little bit more money to determine that you don’t need to do work that they’re telling you to do.

Because of this, the original engineer was fired – and he filed a report saying that the building was “unsafe.” It’s taken us close to a year to get our status changed. Our new engineer explained that the building is safe and doesn’t require all the repairs that the previous engineer proposed. The Department of Buildings finally agreed and filed it as “safe, in need of repair.” 

I think that the first engineer listed us as “unsafe” as retaliation, probably because we’re a new management company. I don’t know why he did it, but he did. The lesson here for boards is that you should review your reports. Don’t leave it up to your management company or take your engineer’s word for what he believes is going on in the building. Go line-by-line. Don’t allow binocular inspections. You have to do Local Law 11 repairs if your building has more than six floors. There’s no way that you can see all of this with just binoculars. Spend the extra money. Do a lift or do a drop. And have somebody do it on eye level, because in the long run you have to pay for it, one way or another.

Jackeline Monzon is president of Crystal Real Estate Management.

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