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BUILDING OPERATIONS

HOW NYC CO-OP AND CONDOS OPERATE

Managing the Headache of Compliance

Lisa Prevost in Building Operations on January 14, 2019

New York City

Compliance I
Jan. 14, 2019

The daily to-do lists for property managers in New York never seem to get any shorter. Overseeing capital projects, supervising staff, seeing to repairs, responding to shareholders, communicating with vendors… The list goes on. 

Making their jobs more complicated is the ever more demanding and frequently frustrating tangle of city codes and regulations – unfunded mandates – pertaining to residential building operations, from fire extinguishers and EXIT signs to stove knobs and rooftop water-cooling towers. Fuel tanks must be tested, elevators must be inspected, and building facades must be deemed safe, on schedule, and with the proper filings with city agencies. Keeping track of every regulatory detail has become increasingly difficult – and time-consuming. 

“It could occupy a whole eight-hour workday each week,” says Stacey Kwiatkoski, manager of operations at MD Squared Property Group, which has two central-office employees dedicated to compliance matters. “You are dealing with multiple agencies, all of which require different actions.” 

So, hoping to dodge expensive fines and penalties, larger management firms are dedicating more resources to compliance oversight. In particular, they are turning to technology to help their managers stay on track. 

With regulations and requirements scattered among a host of city agencies, each with its own set of procedures, there is no single clearinghouse for management companies to consult on their overall compliance status. While many companies rely on their own spreadsheets to track compliance needs, more are turning to compliance monitoring software platforms that enable them to see all of their buildings’ compliance status in real time, along with which complaints and violations need to be addressed. 

“Our job is to aggregate and analyze the data from multiple agencies, so it’s clear to clients what’s the next step,” says Jonathan Fertel, vice president for customer success at SiteCompli, one of the dominant platforms in New York. “A lot of this information has historically been reactive. We try to make the information actionable.” 

For example, Fertel reports that SiteCompli’s system sends out alerts when a complaint hits the system and lets managers know what to do before it becomes a violation. Similarly, if an inspection comes back labeled unsatisfactory, the system lets managers know so that, before getting slapped with a fine, they can address the issue with their service provider and the appropriate city agency. 

Violations are still inevitable, however, especially since the city government is constantly looking for new revenue streams. Monitoring platforms help management companies stay on top of pending violations, as well as alerting them to the actions required to prevent new violations. “We can track items and receive critical alerts when we are in the field or in the office,” says Kwiatkoski of MD Squared. “In addition, we receive weekly and monthly updates of permit and license expiration dates, hearing dates, and filing deadlines.” 

Kwiatkoski believes the benefits of the service outweigh the cost, because losing track of violations can be a major financial liability. Take, for example, the Department of Sanitation, which is infamous for its frequent fines. “Property managers have to be mindful of each sanitation violation they simply pay and ultimately plead guilty to because after 12 of the same violations, the price doubles,” Kwiatkoski says, citing a dirty sidewalk or the mixing of recyclables with non-recyclables as common sources of violations. “After another 12 violations, that price then doubles. And so on.”

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