City Council Votes to Require Self-Closing Door Inspections
On June 2, the City Council voted on legislation requiring inspections for self-closing doors in residential buildings. This is an additional fire safety measure to prevent fire tragedies, and it complements the recent legislative package that was passed in May and signed into law on June 1. These bills passed by the Council are intended to strengthen fire safety in residences throughout New York City, in the aftermath of the Jan. 9 Twin Parks fire in the Bronx.
“Following the tragedy at the Twin Parks North West residential building in the Bronx, it is imperative that we continue to take meaningful and impactful actions to safeguard the lives of all New Yorkers,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Strengthening inspection processes for self-closing doors will ultimately save lives, especially in higher risk buildings.”
Local Law 111 of 2018 requires multiple dwelling buildings to have doors providing access to stairs or interior corridors with a self-closing apparatus. Failure to provide a functioning self-closing door is considered an “immediately hazardous” violation, which landlords will have two weeks to correct. The passed bill, Int. 208-A, with the aim of targeting higher risk buildings, like Twin Parks, requires HPD to select 300 buildings annually for inspection for self-closing door compliance, in addition to compliance with requirements for posting fire safety information for residents.
The criteria for selecting these buildings will be determined by HPD but will include buildings identified in consultation with the Fire Department. Buildings that are inspected don’t need to be inspected again for five years. Buildings that are in HPD’s alternative enforcement program or that are the subject of a court order requiring an administrator to take control of the building to make necessary repairs aren’t subject to inspection under this bill, as these buildings will already be inspected for safety hazards.
Intro. 208-A, sponsored by Council Member Nantasha Williams, also requires HPD and FDNY to share data regarding fire safety violations, and for each agency to use that data to better inform their building inspection protocols. Under the new law, HPD will have until July 1 to provide the Fire Department access to all records of fire safety violations issued by HPD from January 2017 to the present.
In addition, the bill requires HPD to submit to the City Council and mayor, and post for public viewing, an annual report that details the findings of that year’s inspections. The report will include the building’s address; owner; number of floors; when the inspection occurred and whether the building could be accessed; and the number of violations discovered and corrected.
Signed Fire Safety Legislative Package
Intro 208-A follows the fire safety legislative package recently signed into law by Mayor Eric Adams. The laws include shortening the timeline of re-inspection for self-closing door violations, increasing the fine for building owners who don’t cure violations, banning the sale of certain space heaters that don’t meet certain safety standards, and codifying increased fire safety outreach.
- Closed position. Intro. 104 clarifies the definition of a “self-closing door” to mean a door equipped with a device that will ensure the door, when opened and released, returns to the closed position and self-latches shut.
- Correction period and penalties. Intro. 105 shortens the timeline for correction of self-closing door violations from 21 days to 14 days, requires HPD to reinspect a self-closing door violation no later than 20 days after the expiration of the 14-day correction period, and increases penalties for building owners who don’t cure those violations. It establishes a civil penalty range of $250–$500 for the violation of the self-closing door requirement and a $250 per-day penalty from the date set for correction of the violation until it’s corrected. The law also increases civil penalties for the false certification of corrections for Class A, B, and C violations of the Housing Maintenance Code.
- Automatic shutoffs for electric space heaters. Intro. 106 bans the sale of electric space heaters that don’t have automatic shutoff capabilities if the heater falls over or overheats, and requires that space heaters sold in New York City be labeled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
- Fire safety education. Intro. 131 expands fire safety education to require FDNY to provide educational materials and conduct outreach relating to the safe use of electric space heaters in residences. The law—which takes effect as FDNY continues to conduct a robust fire safety education program—also requires that such educational materials be made available to tenants in the top 10 most common languages in New York City.
- Permit filing fees. Intro. 155 prohibits the DOB from charging filing fees for a permit to repair fire-damaged conditions of one-, two- or three-family homes. If construction defects are discovered at such fire-damaged locations, this fee exemption would extend to other dwellings within the same homeowner or cooperative association to correct the same construction defect. The law will diminish repair costs for owners remediating fire-damaged properties and construction defects found during the remediation process, and task DOB with conducting targeted outreach showcasing the fee-exemption program.