Building Inspections What They’re Looking for, and When

Real estate lore has its share of stories about merciless, if not downright unscrupulous, city inspectors popping in on unaware building owners, conducting unscheduled examinations of all types, and sometimes even demanding payoffs in exchange for passing grades. In reality, however, the image of the shady, corrupt inspector couldn’t be further from the truth. In today’s world of short-staffed city agencies, hair-trigger litigation, and co-op and condo board transparency, inspections, safety, and efficiency rule the day. In New York, third-party investigation, testing, and confirmation is how it’s done.

The Third-Party Process

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when, in fact, all inspections of its types were done by city agencies. In some situations that still happens today. Take real estate tax assessments, for example. The City’s Department of Real Property still employs assessors to determine the valuation of a property for tax purposes. But other agencies– buildings departments, for instance – now defer in many cases to independent third parties to inspect and report on the functions and fitness of many building systems such as elevators, boilers, facades, and water towers. “Fees are involved in everything,” says Meryl Sacks, President of Meryl Sacks Real Estate Management Corp., an active co-op management firm based in Manhattan. City agencies may not send out personnel in their employ to do inspections, but they do charge fees from building owners, co-ops, condos or rental owners for the filing and updating of inspections required to protect the safety of residents.

What Gets Inspected?

“There are many required inspections,” says Gregory Cohen, President of Impact Management, a co-op and condo management company with offices in Manhattan, Westchester and Long Island. “And there are more and more added every year.  We should also remember that every building is different, and all are not subject to the same inspections.”

So what kind of inspections are there? As Cohen said, it’s a long list. A relatively complete but not comprehensive list would include items like elevators, boilers, backflow valves, petroleum bulk storage units, property registration documents, façade condition, energy benchmarking, sprinkler/standpipe status, water towers, and cooling towers  –  as well as a myriad of notices including, but not limited to, window guards, lead paint, and smoke detectors. Responsibility for the completion and filing of these reports falls on a variety of experts and professionals, including managing agents.

Elevators

As Cohen said, every building is different and not every building is subject to the same inspections. Every building is different, and not every building is subject to the same inspections. Clearly, a walk-up building without an elevator doesn’t have to worry about an elevator inspection. But for those residents who live in elevator buildings, a safe and functioning lift is among the most critical and important systems in the building.

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