Under the Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP), formerly referred to as Local Law 11, all New York City buildings six stories or higher must have their exterior façades (including balcony enclosures) inspected every five years. A report must then be filed by a qualified architect or engineer with the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), certifying that the building is in compliance with FISP requirements.
FISP projects are among the most challenging endeavors for a board to undertake – and thanks to new enforcement actions against balcony enclosures recently taken by the DOB, the already tough task of completing a FISP project just got tougher.
A Tale of Two Balconies
Before turning to the reasons why, it’s important to note that balcony enclosures come in two varieties: those that are enclosed with only a screen and are not weather-resistant, and those that are enclosed with solid walls, and which may even have plumbing and electricity. Regardless of the type, many balcony enclosures were built by residents looking to add usable square footage to their apartments as part of an alteration.
Balcony enclosures built prior to 2011 were not required to have a permit on file with the Buildings Department. That changed in 2011, when the Department of Buildings issued a new mandate (Rule §101-14) requiring that permits be filed for all weather-resistant balcony enclosures, as well as all screened enclosures installed 40 feet above grade. The DOB cracked down on enforcing this policy by issuing an industry summary in July 2014, which made clear that FISP reports must address balcony enclosures – and in some circumstances, the enclosure must be removed altogether in order for a building to achieve FISP compliance.
Recognizing the enormous number of non-permitted balcony enclosures built prior to 2011, and the burden on property owners that retroactively permitting or removing such structures altogether would represent, the DOB recently refined its policy in August of 2017.