Frank Lovece in Co-op/Condo Buyers
Oct. 7, 2009 — You're combining two apartments, something hundreds if not thousands of co-op and condo owners have done. The board gave its initial go-ahead, approved your architect's plans, signed off on your contractor being duly licensed and insured, and said OK to your construction schedule. Work went as planned, and now your board says you need to have a Department of Buildings inspector come in to revise the now-combined apartment's Certificate of Occupancy.
But wait! There's a quicker, more convenient alternative — one that some boards aren't even aware of. It's called Directive 14.
That might sound like a presidential order from a spy movie, but Directive 14, created by the Department of Buildings in 1975, is a way of obtaining a C of O revision without going through the entire C of O rigmarole. For projects not involving a change or use or occupancy, you can forego having a DOB inspector come in, and instead have the licensed architect or engineer of record simply certify that the work has all been done to code.
The DOB devised the directive at a time when 40,000 applications for C of O revisions were streaming in annually. Allowing architects and engineers to essentially self-certify — with stringent penalties for those abusing the directive — helped unplug the near-impossible backlog.
"Directive 14 is an option any permit applicant has to let the engineer or architect certify a project, so that you don't have to be physically inspected by the Department of Buildings," explains Sam Pruyn, who with his stepbrother Matthew Calvo runs the Sunnyside, Queens-based consultancy and expediting firm Building Brothers, Inc.
The way it works, says Pruyn (pronounced "prine") is that the architect or engineer "identifies at the beginning of the application process which items that the DOB requires certification for, and which items [the architect or engineer] is assuming that responsibility for. At the end of the project, [the architect or engineer] submits a follow-up form stating they have reviewed the project after it has been completed, and that all the items they were going to certify has been done up to DOB requirements."
C of O revisions "aren't really about structural changes," Pruyn notes, "but about use of the building or apartment. If a room on the first floor, let's say, is classified as storage and was turned into an apartment, that's a C of O issue. It doesn't mean there were structural changes. It just means a portion of the building that was listed as unoccupied is now occupied." Likewise, "Removing a kitchen from a combined apartment would be a C of O issue, but isn't necessarily a structural issue."
Since boards aren't always aware of Directive 14, it's up to the co-op shareholder or condo unit-owner to explain that this is a valid DOB alternative to having a city inspector physically come in for a formal inspection.
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