“It came as something of a surprise,” says Stephen Varone, president of Rand Engineering, about the postponement of May 1 filing dates for annual benchmarking reports required for buildings over 25,000 square feet by the City of New York. The change in filing date came only several days before the deadline.
Kristen Hariton, product marketing strategist for SiteCompli.com, a compliance management firm, concurs. “The filing date changed a few days before the deadline.” The annual paperwork is now due August 1, 2020, a 90-day extension, and according to Varone, “Building owners will not be issued penalty fees if they file by August 1.”
Trend, or One-Shot Deal?
This development begs the question of whether the postponement of benchmarking reports represents the beginning of a trend by New York City officials to reschedule the many filings and inspections required each year of landlords -- as well as co-op corporations and condominium associations -- for their buildings. Or is this a one-shot deal and why? Is this part of a trend resulting from pandemic-related limitations on movement and interpersonal contact?
Varone points out that annual benchmarking reports don’t require any physical reports. Those are done every 10 years. Hariton adds that the size of buildings required to do benchmarking reports annually was recently lowered to 25,000 square feet, greatly increasing the number of properties subject to the law. This change may have caused a backlog for the department that reviews and records the reports. And Varone stresses that this move was just an extension, not a permanent change to the filing date.
According to Varone, “nothing else has changed to date.” He also says that he’s not expecting any other due-date changes. He cites as an example, façade inspections, which are or can be life threatening in some cases. “Nothing has changed. Inspections are still being done as scheduled.” Hariton recommends that her clients “continue as if there will not be any change in current policy dates,” though it could happen. They are continuing their services in that fashion. Hariton believes if there are any additional delays, they won’t be given with much notification. If any changes in dates occur, they will adjust accordingly.
When it comes to taking precautions during any kind of site inspection, both Varone and Hariton stress that they put the safety of everyone in the inspection process -- including their own inspectors, city officials and residents and owners of subject properties -- first. All inspections are done according to CDC guidelines. All participants are expected to wear gloves and masks, and to observe social distancing guidelines. Both she and Varone also stressed that their staff will not enter into any space where someone may be quarantined, or where there is otherwise any risk of close-up personal exposure to the virus. Alternatively, they are monitoring their staffs’ health, and taking necessary steps to ensure that those who might have symptoms stay at home.
One potential area to watch, cautions Hariton, is gas line inspections. This is the first year they are being conducted, and the system set up to schedule them is rather complicated. It’s based on community district numbers, and this year only community districts numbered 1, 3, and 10 in each borough will be required to submit affidavits as to whether or not they have a gas line that requires inspection. So far, no change has been made to existing rules and deadlines, but with the newness of the regulations and requirements, that could be one that might change.
In any event, best practices for co-op and condo buildings is for management and boards to follow existing regulations and requirements and keep an eye open for any possible changes.