How to Comply with FDNY's Amended Back-of-Door Notice Rule
Among the numerous required postings and signage for apartment buildings in New York City, the fire safety notice that's posted on the backs of apartment entrance doors is one that has been shown to be very necessary due to recent tragic events. When faced with a fire in one’s building, with smoke filling the public hallway corridors, not everyone will have the presence of mind to remember the instructions provided in the fire and emergency preparedness guide, or the time to search for documents with instructions. According to the FDNY, there’s no substitute to having evacuation/shelter-in-place instructions posted right on the apartment door.
The requirement to post the fire safety notice on apartment doors isn't new, but with the latest amendment to the rule, owners must now confirm that the notices are, in fact, posted on the back of every apartment door. Failing to confirm that notices are posted or keep requisite records may result in fines and increased scrutiny from FDNY and HPD. It may also expose you to liability in the event of an emergency.
The amendment to the rule took effect early last year. It requires an owner to adopt an inspection or certification protocol to ensure the replacement of missing or damaged notices. The city postponed the deadline by a year due to COVID restrictions. We'll take a deeper look into what it takes to comply with the amended rule.
Fire Safety Notice
The Fire Safety Notice is a small sign that outlines safety instructions in case of a fire emergency. It is no larger than 6” x 9”, excluding the frame if it is framed. There are two city-approved versions: One is for combustible buildings (https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/fdny/downloads/pdf/codes/combustible-non-fireproof-building.pdf), and the other one is for non-combustible buildings (https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/fdny/downloads/pdf/codes/non-combustible-fireproof-building.pdf). These must be posted on the back of the front door of every apartment in your building.
Although the fire safety notices have been required to be posted on the interior side of apartment doors for a long time, the Fire Department had no means to ensure compliance. The Department doesn’t ordinarily inspect dwelling units and therefore doesn’t have a means to enforce replacement of missing or damaged notices. According to the FDNY, when it has found missing or damaged notices, owners have maintained that the rule doesn’t clearly require prompt replacement of the notices.
The FDNY's amended back-of-door notice rules bring the process of ensuring that there are well-maintained notices closer to the requirements imposed on owners with regard to window guards. With window guards, in all buildings with three or more apartments, the law requires that building owners install window guards if a child age 10 years or younger lives there, or if the tenant or occupant requests window guards for any reason. As part of this duty, owners send an annual notice to tenants, asking if children age 10 or younger live in the apartment, or if window guards are requested for any reason, regardless of whether there are children in the apartment. This notice is sent in January of each year. And with each new lease, owners must also provide a "Window Guards Required: Lease Notice to Tenant or Occupant" to determine if children live in the apartment.
With the amended rules, owners are required to:
- Inspect each dwelling unit at least once every three years to confirm the presence of the notice, and to replace missing or damaged notices whenever the owner or the owner’s managing agent or building staff become aware of a missing or damaged notice; and/or
- Obtain written certification from the tenant that the notice has been posted by delivering to each dwelling unit a form for completion and return to the owner that includes a statement from the Fire Department regarding the importance of the notice. For a certification form you can use, see our Model Notice: Get Written Certification that Fire Safety Notice Has Been Posted, below.
Timing. The amendment was originally intended to go into effect on April 30, 2021. However, COVID restrictions made it difficult to perform inspections. As a result, owners have until April 30, 2022, to get the certifications or conduct inspections.
With the certification method, you mail a notice to each resident, asking them to indicate if the notice is present. This is similar to current annual safety notice mailings for window guards. The law states that if a resident is non-responsive, meaning the certification isn’t returned by April 30, 2022, you’ll need to inspect the unit within one year of the mailing being sent. Owners who decide not to distribute certification forms must check each unit at least once every three years to “ascertain the presence and condition of the fire & emergency preparedness notice.”
Missing or damaged notices. The owner must replace any missing or damaged notices and may charge the tenant the reasonable cost of its replacement. Also, an owner must replace a missing or damaged notice in a unit before a change in occupancy, and upon the tenant’s request. Again, the owner may charge the tenant for the cost of replacing the notice.
Written record. The law requires the owner to maintain a written record of the distribution of the notices and certification forms, or detailed documentation of an inspection program, for a minimum of three years.
Noncompliance penalties. Penalties are steep for failing to comply. Fines for each violation can be as high as $5,000, plus a civil penalty of up to the same amount. If an owner willfully violates these new rules, it is considered a misdemeanor and carries a possible fine up to $10,000, six-month imprisonment, or both, for each offence. Plus, civil penalties of up to $5,000 for each offense can be enforced.
See The Model Tools For This Article
|Get Written Certification that Fire Safety Notice Has Been Posted