DOB’s Annual Parapet Inspection Requirement Begins in 2024
Here’s what you need to do to comply.
Beginning Jan. 1, New York City building owners must undertake a yearly inspection of parapet walls in accordance with DOB rules and then remedy any hazardous conditions found. Parapets are low walls or barriers that extend above the roofline of a building. They serve both functional and aesthetic purposes—they provide a barrier at the edge of the roof while adding character to a building’s design. Over time, however, parapets can deteriorate due to exposure to the elements, poor maintenance, or other factors.
New York City’s decision to implement mandatory parapet inspections is the city’s attempt to get ahead of the potential safety hazard and structural risks associated with aging and neglected parapets. Parapet failures can lead to falling debris, threatening pedestrians, vehicles, and nearby buildings. Also, unresolved parapet issues can result in costly structural damage and even compromise the integrity of the entire building.
To remind owners of buildings with parapets of this new annual requirement, DOB recently issued a service notice. We’ll go over the basic requirements imposed by Local Law 126 of 2021 and specific reporting and actions DOB requires when hazardous or unsafe conditions are identified during a parapet inspection.
Observation Requirement, Due Date
Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, owners of buildings with parapets fronting the public right-of-way (a public street, avenue, sidewalk, roadway or any other public place or public way), regardless of height, are required to have an annual observation—that is, inspection—of the building’s parapet performed. There are exceptions for detached one- or two-family homes, or buildings with a fence or other barrier preventing access to the exterior wall. A parapet inspection must be completed by Dec. 31, 2024, and by Dec. 31 every year thereafter. As a result, owners must have an observation report on file and made available to DOB upon request by Dec. 31.
The observation must include close-up inspections of the entire parapet, which can be conducted from a fire escape or a roof. According to the DOB, code compliance doesn’t have to be included in the report. DOB is solely looking for a structural stability inspection. Additionally, observations must include, but not be limited to, a determination:
- That the parapet is plumb by a horizontal distance within one-eighth of its cross-sectional thickness in any location;
- Whether there is excessive deterioration, including, but not limited to, displacement, horizontal or diagonal cracks, missing or loose bricks or coping stones, deteriorated mortar joints, spalling, or rot; and
- That appurtenances such as telecommunications equipment, railings, roof access rails, gooseneck ladders and handrail attachments for fire escapes, and signs, have been installed and maintained in a stable condition.
Who Can Perform the Observation
According to the DOB, a person competent to inspect parapets can perform the observation. This includes, but is not limited to, a bricklayer, building superintendent, handyman, mason, or a person in a similar construction-related trade, a NYS-licensed architect or engineer, a NYS-authorized building inspector or an inspector working for a NYS-authorized insurance company, or any other individual capable of identifying hazards on the parapet.
There’s no standard form, but RCNY §103-15 outlines exactly what needs to be included in each observation. The order and sequence as outlined in the rule must be followed. The report must include, but is not be limited to:
- The address and any other associated addresses for the building;
- The name, mailing address, and telephone number of the owner of the building, or, if the owner is not an individual, the name, mailing address, telephone number, and position/title of a principal of the owner;
- The name of the person performing the observation. If other than the owner, their mailing address, telephone number, affiliation with the building or owner, and business name, if applicable;
- The date(s) of the observation;
- The location plan of the parapet(s) observed;
- The construction of the parapet, including but not limited to material, height, and thickness;
- General conditions noted, whether any unsafe conditions were found, and actions taken to remedy the unsafe conditions;
- Any repairs made to the parapet since the previous report; and
- Dated photos documenting the conditions at the time of observation.
Hazardous or Unsafe Conditions
If hazardous or unsafe conditions are identified during the observation:
- The person performing the observation must immediately notify DOB by calling 311 and emailing firstname.lastname@example.org;
- The owner must immediately install public protection, such as erecting sidewalk sheds, fences, and safety netting to secure the safety of the public, and have the unsafe condition remedied. The public protection must remain in place until the unsafe condition is remedied.
If a sidewalk shed needs to be installed, the applicant for the sidewalk shed filing in DOB NOW will answer “YES” to the new question on the Sidewalk Shed Scope of Work, “Is the sidewalk shed related to the required periodic observation of the building’s parapet (1 RCNY §103-15)?”
It’s important to note that unsafe conditions identified during the observation must be corrected within 90 days from the notification to DOB.
How Report Correlates with Façade Inspections
With DOB’s Façade Inspection & Safety Program (FISP), owners of buildings higher than six stories must have exterior walls and appurtenances inspected every five years and a technical façade report must be electronically filed with the Department through DOB NOW: Safety.
According to DOB, if applicable, in the year a FISP report is submitted, the FISP report can count toward the parapet report for that year. In other words, no separate report is required. However, the FISP report must include all the information that’s required in the parapet report. And the owner must have a copy of the FISP report available upon request.
Parapet Report Retention
The annual parapet observation reports don’t need to be submitted to DOB. But reports must be kept on file by the owner for at least six years and be made available to DOB upon request.