Get Tenants to Remove Obstructions from Fire Exits and Hallways


This time of year your tenants may be placing large items in hallways to prep their apartments for holiday decorations or because weather conditions might not allow them to place outside whatever bulky item they had outdoors. Tenants sometimes obstruct fire exits, including fire escapes, with a variety of items. Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) inspectors and the fire department routinely find such things as flowerpots, mops, buckets, brooms, and bicycles on fire escapes. These items could prevent escape from an apartment if there's a fire. Tenants also block public hallways with such items as bicycles or baby carriages. Such obstructions could prevent tenants from quickly exiting the building.

These tenant-caused obstructions can lead to your getting hit with a violation. This makes it important for you to tell your tenants about an unacceptable obstruction right away—and get them to remove it. If an item is blocking access to the fire escape or preventing other tenants from using it, you'll be cited for Violation #539, which requires removal of a “fire escape encumbrance.” If the item is blocking a public hallway, you'll be cited for Violation #538, which requires removal of the encumbrance blocking a public hallway. HPD classifies these as Class B violations. An owner has 30 days to correct a B violation and two weeks to certify the correction to remove the violation or be hit with fines.

To help you deal with this situation, here's a Model Letter: Require Tenant to Remove Obstructions, that you can use as a guide to have tenant remove an obstruction.