NYC DOB Facade Inspection & Safety Program (FISP)

History

In New York City, regular inspections of high-rise facades became standard practice in the 1980s when buildings began to erode in waves. Some had been built before the introduction of improved construction techniques, others simply had been poorly maintained. Falling debris caused a number of accidents including the death in 1979 of a young woman struck by a falling piece of lintel in upper Manhattan. The incident garnered national attention, and prompted the city to enact the first façade inspection law, Local Law 10. This law mandated that buildings more than six stories tall must regularly undergo a critical examination by a licensed engineer or architect.

 

Over the next 18 years, these inspections revealed significant deterioration of various critical façade elements. Many buildings needed immediate repairs. A larger number than expected had incurred weather damage, having been built at a time of inferior construction techniques. Thus in 1998, the law was revised and replaced by a more stringent law. Local Law 11 expanded the purview of the inspection to include all facades and a hands-on inspection via scaffolding.

 

Today, the buildings formerly governed by Local Law 11 are now protected by the NYC Department of Buildings’ Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP). FISP enforces the particulars of the periodic inspections and all things associated with the technical report (TR) which must be filed to the DOB every 5 years.

FISP FAQ

1. What buildings qualify for the city’s mandatory inspection?

Every building greater than 6 stories must be inspected for the Department of Buildings once every five years. The result of the inspection will be exhibited in a report that will let the building owner or property manager know whether their building is safe or if remedial action needs to be taken.

2. Who is qualified to carry out the inspection?

A Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector, or QEWI, must perform the inspection and write the report. The QEWI must be a New York State professional engineer or registered architect.

3. Can the inspection be performed at any point within a 5-year period?

Not exactly. Every building has a specific 2-year filing window determined by the last digit of its block number. In this period the building must have their inspection completed and a report filed. The three filing windows (A, B, or C) make up a 5-year inspection cycle which is denoted by the city. We are currently in the 8th cycle, which terminates in March 2019. At that point filing window A of cycle 9 will begin.

FILING WINDOW LAST DIGIT OF BLOCK # START DATE END DATE
A 4, 5, 6 or 9 02/21/2015 02/21/2017
B 0, 7 or 8 02/21/2016 02/21/2018
C 1, 2 or 3 02/21/2017 02/21/2019

4. What if the inspection is not completed in the allotted time frame or swift action is not taken to correct an “unsafe condition?”

Failure to complete the inspection on time is not only an issue of public safety, it also has steep monetary consequences. If a building skips the inspection cycle and files late, the fee is $250/month. If a report is not filed at all the fee is $1000/year. Remember: a building cannot skip the FISP inspection cycle, regardless of how much time has passed since the deadline.

5. What portions of the building need to be inspected?

All components of the building’s exterior, including

Brick, glass or stone exterior walls
Fire escapes
Balconies and terraces
Building setbacks
Window AC units
Attached signs

6. How is the inspection conducted?

A base level, visual examination is performed by perimeter workarounds, which can be aided by long-range binoculars and camera. To inspect portions of the façade which many not be clearly discernible from the ground in greater detail, a hands on, up-close visual examination must be performed from scaffold drops at critical locations determined by the engineering or architect preforming the inspection.

7. What are some of the costs associated with these types of inspections?

Aside from the penalties listed in question #4, the Department of Buildings charges a fee of $265 to file the Technical Report (TR).

FEE TYPE FILING FEE
Initial Report $265
Amended/Subsequent Report $100
Extension Request $135
PENALTIES PENALTY FEE
Late Filing (Initial Report) $250/month
Failure to File $1000/year
Failure to Correct UNSAFE Conditions $1000/month pro-rated daily until corrected