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How Much Will the New, Expanded Local Law 11 Inspections Cost Boards?

Jennifer V. Hughes in Legal/Financial on April 24, 2014

New York City

New Costs of Expanded Local Law 11
April 24, 2014

It's difficult to estimate the added costs of the new LL 11, a.k.a. FISP, says Stephen Varone, president of Rand Engineering & Architecture. "Our inspection engineers and architects in charge of these reports earn $215 an hour," he notes. "Do the math. If it's one building and a few hours of checking and a few hours of writing a report, it's one thing. If I have to access 15 or 20 balconies and get access to all those apartments and examine roof railings and 10 fire escapes, it can wind up adding 20 hours to the cost of the report."

Leon Geoxavier, project manager with Walker Restoration Consultants, agrees that it's hard to estimate how much more it will cost to add balcony inspections. "Depending on the size of the building and the condition, I'd say it could add up to 15 to 20 percent to the cost of the report," he says.

The Dollar Is in the Details

The details of each building will dictate how much time it will take to return and confirm stability of the components, even if the expert is just checking a sample, says Varone, who asks: "Is it a seven-story building with one exposure and one balcony, or a fifteen-story building with four exposures, forty balconies, roof decks, multiple setbacks, etc.? In all likelihood, I would expect owners are looking at about $2,000 per building minimum to return this [seventh] cycle and issue the affidavit. In the eighth cycle, since everyone will know in advance what now needs to be done, perhaps it won't take as much time."

See also... 

The cost to go back and do balcony affidavits for Cycle 7 of the quinquennial local lawwill be about $2,000 or $3,000 for each of two of buildings — one a condominium and the other a cooperative — with which he works, says Mark LiCalzi, president of Luke LiCalzi Consulting Engineers. The cost of a balcony inspection in the upcoming Cycle 8 will likely be mitigated, in part, because professionals may be able to inspect the balconies from rigging that already has to be erected for FISP, says LiCalzi. That avoids the time-consuming and costly practice of having to gain access to individual apartments, he says.

If there are problems found with balconies during the inspection, the cost to fix it will vary. LiCalzi says fixes could be as simple as replacing screws or as complicated as replacing masonry. A common area for problems is the "pitch pocket," the area in which the railing meets the deck, where water often sits.

"In the worst possible case, the management would have to notify occupants that they cannot use their balconies, and secure the door from the exterior side so that no one can accidentally use their balcony," says LiCalzi. "If there is a real danger of the balcony falling, then a sidewalk bridge would be required."

Material Concerns

The cost to repair balconies also varies depending on the materials used, says Geoxavier. "Is it an older brick building with balcony walls that are similar to the parapets? Then it could be $500 to $750 a linear foot," he says. "If it's an aluminum railing or glass system, it's something else. Are you repairing concrete railings at $400 a post? It depends on a lot of factors."

Rand is urging its clients to be proactive, asking owners to have the building staff go around and do repair checks themselves, before the pros do theirs, says Varone. Another key is to communicate frequently with residents about possible problems, reminding them to report issues with balconies and terraces.

"Have your maintenance staff keep an eye on these components on an annual basis, and make that statement to me and I can make that part of my report and that minimizes the amount of time it takes me," he says. "It can be a situation where I used to have to charge you $4,000 but now I charge you $5,000 but at least I don't have to charge you $20,000.

"It really should be seen as an owner-maintenance thing," he adds. "That is the way to minimize cost. If you are regularly checking it, you are avoiding big problems and also not having to pay as much of those $200-an-hour fees for architects and engineers. And, of course, you are also avoiding what we all want to avoid: someone having an accident."


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