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There's Only So Much to Be Done About Scaffolds

New York City

Scaffold Relief

Scaffolds come with nice things like noise, dust, darkness and a lack of privacy (art by Jeff Moores).

May 9, 2019

Is there any relief for residents from the noise, dust, darkness, lack of privacy and other inconveniences when a scaffold surrounds a co-op or condo building for months, or even years? 

Yes, but mainly no. “Legal recourse against the board will be a challenge,” attorney Eric Sherman, a partner at Pryor Cashman, tells the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times. The reason is that the scaffold is there by law. In New York City, all buildings over six stories tall must have their facades inspected every five years under Local Law 11, now known as the Facade Inspection and Safety Program. And if inspectors determine that the facade needs repairs, a scaffold will probably be required along with a sidewalk shed to protect pedestrians from falling debris. 

What about noise? “A certain level of noise is to be expected with construction work,” Sherman says. 

That’s two strikes, but aggrieved shareholders and unit-owners are not out yet. Boards should address concerns about dust infiltrating apartments. All New Yorkers are protected by the warranty of habitability, a state rule that requires property owners, including co-op and condo boards, to provide residents with habitable living conditions. Shareholders or unit-owners may be entitled to a reduction in maintenance fees or common charges, but they should first consult a lawyer, Sherman advises. 

But first, take some practical measures. Close, lock and, if possible, seal windows near the work site to reduce the dust infiltrating the apartment. Use an air purifier. Review the proprietary lease and bylaws for guidance on building rules. Write the board a letter insisting that it take measures to keep dust from entering the building, including speaking with the contractor. And boards should provide residents with updates about the progress of the facade repairs. After all, nobody likes to be left in the dark – especially when it's noisy and dusty.

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

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