New Law in Effect to Prevent Future Gas Leak Tragedies Property Managers and Building Owners Should Take Note of Local Law No. 153

Cleanup of the 2015 East Village explosion and fire in New York City (By MusikAnimal via Wikimedia Commons).

In March  2015, an illegal tap on a gas line caused an explosion in a residential building in the East Village. Two lives were lost and three buildings were leveled. In the aftermath, it became clear that while the city required inspections of many building systems, it was not the case for gas lines.

The New York City Council worked to remedy that, and in December, 2016, a package of bills was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Among those bills included Local Law No. 153, which went into effect last month.(The Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives & Condominiums recently posted about the new law on its website). It amends the city’s administrative code to require building and apartment owners to post signage alerting residents and potential tenants on the proper protocol if a gas leak is suspected.

The bill reads:

The owner of a dwelling shall deliver or cause to be delivered to each tenant and prospective tenant of such dwelling, along with the lease or lease renewal form for such tenant or prospective tenant, and shall post and maintain in a common area of the building containing such dwelling, a notice, in a form developed or approved by the department, regarding the procedures that should be followed when a gas leak is suspected. Such notice may be combined with any existing required notices and shall instruct tenants to first call 911 and then call the relevant gas service provider, whose name and emergency phone number shall be set forth on such notice, before contacting such owner or an agent thereof when a gas leak is suspected.

A failure to post and provide such notice could lead to the issuance of a violation. 

“I was shocked to learn that the city has required inspections for boilers, elevators, water tanks, water recycling systems, and sprinklers, but until now, no inspections for gas piping systems have been required,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal in a press release.

What Does This Mean for Landlords and Owners?

In order to be in compliance, such signage must be posted, and all tenants and potential tenants must be informed of the proper protocol. The NYC Housing Development and Preservation website has provided a sample notice to post in buildings. 

The sheer number of gas pipes makes this issue even more pressing. According to a previously published Cooperator article, there are “hundreds of miles worth of pipes—and that’s just the lines that Con Ed knows about—not the illegal link-ups that likely exist all around the city, and which the New York Post reported as the cause of the East Village blast.”

That article continued: “Because of the preponderance of gas mains, and their relatively old age—the average age of a main in New York City is 56 years—any main could leak at any time. According to the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Commission, New York is the fourth-ranked American city in total number of gas leaks since 1984, and Con Edison is the third most leaky gas company in the country from 2009-2013.”

Additionally, the article reported, “not all gas leaks originate underground.”

Indeed, some leaks are from appliances that use gas to operate.

“Gas leaks can result from faulty appliances, improper appliance installation or removal, and poor appliance maintenance,” explained Elisheva Zakheim, a press officer with the FDNY in the Cooperator article. “Appliances should be regularly maintained by licensed professionals, and residents of multiple family dwellings should always consult with management before adjusting stoves (and utilize a licensed professional to do so).”

Now the new legislation is a step toward ensuring accountability, according to de Blasio last December: "Gas safety is important for all New Yorkers, and this legislative package will resolve numerous regulatory oversights. These bills will help protect tenants in the event of an outage, and require greater information sharing between City agencies and gas utilities to enhance safety. Most importantly, these reforms will ensure both property owners and utility companies are accountable for keeping buildings safe."

Georgia Kral is a staff writer at The Cooperator.

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