New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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For Co-ops and Condos, Garages Are the New Facades

Bill Morris in Building Operations on January 27, 2022

New York City

Garage inspections and repairs, Local Law 126, co-op and condo boards, unfunded mandates.

Deferred maintenance on garages is about to get much more expensive (images courtesy Kipcon Engineering). 

Jan. 27, 2022

The clock has begun ticking on the latest unfunded mandate for co-op and condo boards: periodic garage inspections and repairs. The first two-year cycle for completing an inspection and filing a required report without penalty began on Jan. 1, 2022 and will run through Dec. 31, 2023. It affects garages located in Community Districts 1 through 7 in Manhattan, which covers the Upper West Side and everything below Central Park. The filing dates for other Community Districts have not yet been set, and details of the law are still being hammered out.

“The first cycle is open,” says Kathleen Needham Inocco, a principal at Midtown Preservation Architecture & Engineering. “People in districts 1 through 7 may be doing preliminary inspections, but it’s premature to start filing any reports. Boards need to start thinking about their garages the same way they think about their buildings’ facades.”

The city law, an offshoot of a 2018 state law, will require garage inspections and repairs on six-year cycles. Like the Facade Inspection and Safety Program, formerly known as Local Law 11, it will require qualified inspectors to classify conditions as “safe,” “safe with repair and/or engineering monitoring” or “unsafe.” 

That report, according to Article 323 of the city Administrative Code, “shall include a record of all potentially unsafe conditions of the structure and the condition of structural framing members, any visible reinforcement, connections, and conditions of slabs and slab joints. The report must also contain the annual observation checklist to be used for subsequent annual parking structure observations. Such reports must be signed and sealed by a professional engineer, who must file the report.” 

Once an unsafe condition is reported to the DOB, the owner must immediately remove the condition or safeguard the area. The condition must be corrected within 90 days.

Christopher Alker, the vice president of building operations at the management company AKAM, offers a prediction: “This law will add expenses to the running of buildings — but only if the garage has been neglected. But this is the beginning of a new era of additional costs for co-op and condo boards.”

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Both Alker and Inocco predict that boards that lease their garages to garage operators will soon face a new wrinkle. “A lot of garages have leases that make the leasee responsible for maintenance,” Inocco says. “What’s maintenance and what’s a structural repair? In my opinion, that’s going to be a big issue for residential buildings that lease their garages, because garage repairs can be very expensive.”

Alker adds: “When boards renegotiate their garage leases, they’re going to try to bake in the cost of maintenance as the leasee’s responsibility. That makes sense. The garage operator is creating the wear and tear on the structure and making a profit. But the city will hold the building owner responsible.”

Inocco offers another prediction: “Certificates of occupancy are going to be a big issue. The C of O will list the number of cars allowed to legally occupy the space. Many New York garages are now packed like sardine cans. That’s going to become an issue once regular inspections start.”

Exempt from mandatory inspections are unenclosed outdoor parking lots, garages that hold fewer than three cars, and private garages serving one- and two-family homes.

The regulations are not yet final. The DOB will hold a virtual public hearing on the rules at 11 a.m. on Feb. 25. DOB rules are contained in Title 1 of the Rules of New York. To attend the public hearing, click this link. When prompted, enter the password 10007.

To attend the meeting by telephone, call 646-992-2010 (the access code is 2305 692 2597). You can submit comments on the proposed rules by clicking this link.

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