Balcony Enclosures: An Update Some Good News for Boards Concerned Over the Legal Status of Such Enclosures

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Perhaps the most prized amenity in a New York City home is private outdoor space.  Brownstones may offer a garden, a roof deck, or a small terrace. Pre-war buildings have coveted wrap-around penthouses, and post-war high-rise buildings often have balconies.  Those balconies are often enclosed in some fashion, usually screens but occasionally glass. Some even come equipped with heat and air-conditioning. A balcony can add a sizable premium to a co-op or condo unit’s price. 

However, in the last couple of years, regulations by the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) have questioned whether these enclosures are legal at all. Most recently, as previously reported by The Cooperator, the DOB had instituted a policy last August that would’ve made it tougher for boards to have inspections done on such enclosures in addition to having to check on the permit statuses, which would have required additional time to research and expense--especially under the Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP), formerly Local Law 11.

However, there has been some recent good news.  Before we get into the nitty gritty of all of this, here’s some background.

A History

Way back in 1976, the Department of Buildings issued a memorandum on the subject of enclosed balconies.  “Many apartment house dwellers,” it reads, “have enclosed their balconies with open screening, metal and glass panels, and various other types of light wall assemblies without permits.  These enclosures usually are secured in such a way that they may be removed with little difficulty. The DOB, henceforth, will take the position that lightweight, readily removal balcony enclosures are not to be considered permanent parts of the building, and the enclosed balcony area shall not be counted as a floor area for zoning purposes.”

And that was that, until 2014.  After a general review of earlier memorandums, the memo of June 17, 1976, pertaining to balcony enclosures was rescinded. Last August, the DOB further revised its policy regarding the balcony enclosures. According to writers Rachael Ratner and Stephanie Bauman in their article for The Cooperator:

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