Printed from at 07:55 PM, Jan 16 2017
Talk » Renovation » Discussing 'Expediters - what exactly do they do and why do they cost so much?'

Expediters - what exactly do they do and why do they cost so much?


Hi, we haven't hired an expediter yet, and may not need to, but I haven't seen it discussed on this board why an expediter charges so much (we've heard $5k - $10k on average) for what is essentially filing papers. Is this because dealing with the DOB is just *that* miserable?

How do you weigh whether or not the expediter you may use is charging a fair amount?

Have people here interviewed different expediters, or do they just go with the one the architect or contractor recommends?


Just found a really interesting article from 1991 on expediters in the NY Times:

There aren't too many expediters out there. $6000 is about going rate if there's nothing unusual. It involves knowing which lines to wait on and what to do and what to have with you. It isn't magic and from what I understand, if you are willing to miss work and spend days down at DOB or wherever, you can figure it out on your own. The prospect of doing that made me reach for the check book with alacrity. My brother, however, braved it on his own when renovating a brownstone in Bklyn and managed somehow.

Typically, an expeditor just pushes paper (to become an expediter, one basically just needs a social security number and a background check).

The expeditor will need to work with either an architect (hence the cost) to produce the documents. In some cases he can find a draftsman and an engineer to rubber stamp the drawing.

Make sure you know who the architect is, and who is going to be liable if the application gets delayed or rejected. Or is your expeditor also a licensed architect?

Let me know if you need an architect recommendation.

Expeditors are a legal way to pay bribes.
You give him $10K then they give $500 here and $500 there to people in the buildings department to get things done quickly. $10K of revenue less $4K of bribes means they get to keep $6K. Don't be foolish. Pay them.
This is somewhat tongue and cheek but only somewhat.

i used citydrafters for my expediting services a year ago n was veryhappy they wwere fast n efficent i think

Jazzman is absolutely right. I paid huge money to file papers through an expensive architect for work on a bathroom in a townhouse. The building dept refused, saying I had to make the bathroom wheel chair accessible. I had the architect re do the plans to make it wheel chair accessible and of course, that would have made the bathroom larger than the master bedroom or the living room. I believe in that wheelchair law (designed for new developments), but i lived in a landmarked building. There were stairs to get to the front door of the building and you couldn't put in a ramp for wheelchairs because it was landmarked. So I spent two days in line at the DOB until finally someone said, well someone in a wheel chair could wheel up to the outdoor stairs then walk up the stairs. I countered with "if they could walk up the stairs at the entry and carry the wheel chair up with them-- perhaps on snowy stairs-- they don't need an extra 700 sq ft to turn the chair in the bathroom. I was denied.

The next day I hired an expeditor. He had been fired as head of the DOB for taking bribes. He said I had to stay at home to receive an inspector for the bathroom. The inspector came -- it was an 18 yr old girl, I swear to God. She was 15 minutes late. She stayed in the bathroom for literally 20 seconds and then said "OK" and left. The next day, I got all the permits. It was the best 5K I have ever spent ( it was many years ago)

Jazzman is right. Pay them It is the way the world works.

Some of the above is dated. Since the change in the law to allow self certification by architects, there is much less need to bribe people in the Building's Dept. You just pay the architect to lie on the self certification instead (of course this depends on whether the item is one which is eligible for self certification).

However, I'll give an example of what Jazzman and apt23 are talking about: in the building where I live there are extensions built which are totally illegal and never filed for. The Buildings Dept even cited the building multiple times, but never did anything about it. The Expediter for the tenant was ALSO a guy who got people's Liquor License Applications thru the State Liquor Authority (and the applications filed for that were full of lies as well). Geee...... let me think.... what skill set would a guy have that would be common to getting around Buildings Dept regulations and ALSO getting people's fraudulent Liquor License Applications thru the SLA? Hmmmmmmm...... what do you think?

Muahahaa! I can guess, and don't want to know about that.

Can you say more about "self certification" by architects - haven't heard of that - what is eligible and what is not? How about moving a non-load-bearing wall?

I'm not sure what is and what isn't, but a lot of stuff is - like combining apartments.

Maybe an architect can weigh in, but I think certain types of work trigger the need for a license. I think my architect said plumbing is such a trigger as is electrical. All I knew for sure was that I wanted my job done without delays and within budget.

I could have got it done for less, but I didn't want the aggravation and headaches. I paid for a skilled architect who knew the NYC bureaucracy and how coop engineers tend to see things. I paid for intricately detailed plans leaving nothing open for interpretation. She knew Americans with Disabilities Act rules, knew what the city was lenient on and what they were sticklers for. Where choices had to be made she laid them out and let me decide what risks with approval I was willing to accept. But there were not two sets of drawings--one for city and one for GC. The perforated set (the set the city approved) was the set the GC worked off of. No one was going to say I didn't follow the rules when my job was 80% complete and some inspector came by. I had zero interest in fudging anything with the city or building engineer just to get an approval and then sweat it out for 6 months while construction took place and final sign-offs were obtained. I don't do well with that kind of stress.

The architect retained the expeditor who cost $6000. Maybe I bitched enough that the expeditor lowered the rate a couple hundred dollars, but overall there wasn't much negotiation room on price. What exactly that expeditor did is still a bit of a mystery to me. All I know is every permit needed was obtained (I think that took 3-4 wks), all inspections during reno were fine, I experienced no significant glitches, and final sign-offs were without incident.

I felt like the expeditor part of the process had to be accepted like the way you have to bride Mexican Highway patrolmen--its just a necessary evil I didn't have time or energy to fight.

Kylewest, I agree with you about not wanting to work off two sets of drawings. If that is what it would take to get the job done, we would change the reno to avoid it. I have to say, I think that forcing a private home to be made ADA compliant is a bit over the top. It also doesn't make total sense to me.

I toured a new construction model apartment downtown. It was on the 4th floor of a 10-story small glass condo - can't actually remember now whether it was on 14th or 23rd, but it was one of those. There is NO WAY the bathrooms could be usable to a feeble elder or to someone in a wheelchair.

If it turns out we need the expediter, guess we will hold our noses and pay. I don't doubt that they earn their keep, but I guess it is like watching sausage being made - I really don't want to see what went into it.

ADA does not apply to private residences:

Q. Does the ADA cover private apartments and private homes?
A. The ADA generally does not cover private residences. If, however, a place of public accommodation, such as a doctor's office or day care center, is located in a private residence, those portions of the residence used for that purpose are subject to the ADA's requirements.

Some co-ops insist that new openings such as doors & hallways conform to ADA reqs.

modern - thanks - I read that, too, but have been hearing the opposite from people who have recently been through renovations.

nyc10023 - are you saying it is the co-ops and not the city requiring this?

What I'm saying is that a co-op can have stricter requirements than the city. Every co-op is different, obviously - I've renovated in 2 diff. co-ops and for both co-ops, "board" approval was not required. However, your plans as well as contractor's name, insurance info had to be submitted to building management & building engineer. There is a space on of the forms to be submitted to the DOB (forget which one) that requires a signature from an authorized person for your building (usually the building management). The building management/engineer then used the rules of the co-op in approving/disapproving the plans. For example, the building dept doesn't have specific requirements as to type & amount of insurance carried by your contractor/plumber/electrician. Your building might have specific requirements. I could go on, but you get the idea. Ditto the ADA requirements - some co-ops require this, some don't.

The city and state also have disability-access regulations. Sorting out the federal/state/city regulations and seeing that the most restrictive are complied with is part of what an architect does.

In my case, I was on the ground/ first floor of a townhouse. The ADA laws applied at the time to first/ground floors. The law was intended for new and multi dwelling buildings but townhouses got caught up in the law. I am not sure what the laws are now or if they have been changed since this was in the 90's but if they haven't - it would only apply to the ground floor. The law made absolutely no sense in my case since their was no wheelchair access to the building and it was impossible to make it wheel chair accessible because it was a landmarked building and would not qualify for a ramp.

ADA does apply to private homes - if they are located in multi-family dwellings.

"ADA does apply to private homes - if they are located in multi-family dwellings."

No it does not.

Now, there may be State and/or NYC laws that apply but the ADA does not.

Modern - you're wrong on that one. We moved the door to a closet in our bedroom - the new doorway had to be 36" wide for ADA compliance, even though the door to the bedroom is only 30" wide - so a wheelchair can't get into the bedroom, but can get into the closet. Made no sense. Same thing when the door to the third bathroom was repositioned - doorway is 36" wide, but, since only the sink was replaced, the bathroom is still not ADA.

I believe that if you move bathroom fixtures around ,(if for example you are enlarging the space, etc). you then have to be ADA compliant. If you just change existing fixtures, no problem.

And Modern - haven't you ever wondered why the bathrooms in all the newer construction are so big, while the bedrooms get smaller and smaller? ADA compliance for the bathrooms, hallways, etc., and the space gets taken out of the bedrooms.

Was involved with a factory condo conversion years ago in Tribeca - the ramp issue alone was enough to make you pull your hair out.

ADA does not apply. NYC may have adopted their own rules, but the Feds don't give a hoot how wide your bathroom door is.

True ADA bathroom rules include grab bars around the toilet and tub, and an elevated height toilet too. Also those wide easy to turn on handles on faucets. Also door handles have to be levers not knobs. I assume you did not have to install all of those changes, therefore you are not ADA compliant.

Modern - there may be different rules for commercial vs. residential - so new theaters, hotels, etc. have a least one stall with raised toilet, grab bars, etc.

Residential may have less strict requirements, but the turnarounds, hallways, doorways, etc. are definitely required.v So call it NEW YORK ADA - same end effect.

What ph41 is saying is what I've been hearing - the rules are applied without regard to common sense, like making a closet door 36" wide when the room door is only 30" wide.

Speaking of which, couldn't you move a closet door in your bedroom without getting the city involved? That sounds so minor that it wouldn't even occur to me to ask the question whether to get approval.

Augustus - it was part of an apartment renovation - so plans were filed.

New York has something called the local law 58 ( i think that's the number) that outlines rules for adaptability of multifamily dwellings. Most of the rules have to do with room and opening dimensions that make a space 'adaptable'. (ie you may not want to install grab bars, ada sink etc but your bathroom needs to be the size where the clearances are possible so that someone can install these items and make it ada compliant down the road) Generally, this applies to things that where the footprint is being changed or when you move openings etc.

Self-certification is when an architect certifies that the design complies with all applicable codes etc etc. You don't need to get a review from a plan examiner but there are random audits. In certain cases, say doing an addition to a building in a landmarked district, an architect can't self-certify, since one of Landmark's requirements before they review your proposal is that there are no zoning objections from the DoB.

Expediters vary in the services they provide, some just queue up and get the right form signed. Some who used to be building examiners themselves know the codes inside out, and really are a great resource.

ps. i believe landmarks cannot stop ADA retrofits, especially in public buildings.

i did a major $400K gut renovation -- no expeditor. Just an architecht and my contractor. Only off moments were building board related. maybe there were $500 fee or two -- but NO $6K - $10K fee. Crazy!

A couple of responses to all these interesting points. Modern - ADA does apply to private residences in NYC. Augustus, self-certification is a process recognized by the DoB whereby architects can represent their initial building permit application drawings as conforming to all DoB requirements, in order to get same-day permission for construction to start. As opposed to a non self-cert, which can take up to about 3 weeks to process, with no objections along the way. If at time of final inpections/sign off after job completion a DoB inspector happens to visit and find that anything is not in conformance, that piece must be ripped out and made to comply. EG if you have not done correct ADA compliance in the kitchen you have to rebuild it, openings built too narrow must be widened...and the like. So, there is an element of uncertainty attached to s self-certification process, it is higher risk and therefore whoever is doing it might charge a premium for this service. I am an architect BTW.

Drumbane01 thanks for the explanations - could you also talk a little about how the "final inspection" works? Does the same architect who self-certifies the work to start also sign that it is finished properly? Also, how long does a city inspector have to come take a look after the project ends?

In your experience, what is the best way to proceed?

So what exactly triggers the need for ADA compliance? I'm gutting a bathroom (but putting new fixtures back in exactly the same places where the old ones were), reversing or removing one closet and adding another, and putting in a new kitchen (it's already gutted). Neither the kitchen nor the bathroom is wide enough to be ADA compliant, no matter what I do. Should I worry?

Trigger for bathroom ada compliance is the relocation of any bathroom fixtures. Fixtures replaced in the same location do not trigger ada. You will not have to change the door size unless you modify the door location. Once you modify the door, you have to install an ada compliant door. Plumbing inspectors have begun to be trained in ada rules over the last couple of years. They can now flag ada non-compliance when they come to inspect your rough-ins and final work.

I am also a registered architect. The rules regarding ada (or New York local ada rules) are complex and there are ways to interpret the rules which are more or less restrictive. This is one of the areas where it really pays to have a good expediter and architect on board.

A few years ago I had the experience of having a client tell me they did not want to pay for me to do intermediate (rough in and framing) inspections. When I came back for the final inspection, all of the doors were 3" smaller than code and had to be re-framed, patched and finished. In this case, her husband was soon to be coming home from the hospital in a wheel chair! Needless to say, I will no longer work with a client who does not want construction administration services. She ended up losing her contractor over it and paid a lot of extra money to correct the work.

By the way, I have worked with several excellent expediters and the base cost is usually between 1700 and 2200 for a basic alteration permit. Landmarks, change of Certificate of Occupancy, etc. will be more but 6,000 is an awful lot for basic services!

rooftop....please send me an email ... uwswalter (at) yahoo (dot) com Thanks!

Rooftop is correct, the replacement of bathroom or kitchen plumbing fixtures on existing roughing is counted as a plumbing repair, not new work, and needs an ARA or LAA plumbing repair slip from Dept of Buildings to allow your plumber to proceed - which a licensed plumber can get for you without having an architect involved. Also, at the kitchen, a stove can be moved or relocated, or replaced by a new stove, up to six feet from your original stove location and hooked up by flexi connection to the original gas valve, without being counted as new work. Also, a dishwasher can be added to your list of appliances in your apt without needing the full Alteration permit from the Dept of Buildings.
While ADA rules apply to many but not all renovations in NYC, the prior existence of pipe chases, structural columns and immovable party walls in apartments may make it impossible to comply fully with the rules, in which case experienced expediters can plead a hardship to the plan examiners, often yielding sympatheic results.


The architect who signs and seals the drawings initially used for building dept. filing also has to do final sign off. The DoB inspector can visit any time, with or without the process of "self certification", but I do not know exactly the cut off time at which, as it were, the statute of limitations runs out. Interesting question, I am going to get myself informed of that one.

The best way to go? To get your plans examined by the DoB at time of filing so you pretty much get an OK from the DoB to proceed. This is NOT self-certification. This "directive 14" process takes from a week to three weeks of lull time before construction but is a lot better than ripping out doors and kitchen cabinets later, as has been known to happen. Regard Rooftop's comments on this thread.

I agree with Drumbane, just know that drawings filed with the DOB need to be signed and sealed by a NY registered architect or engineer. Also, the plans may be approved by the DOB but they must also be built as drawn and approved. If they are not built as approved, and the DOB does an inspection, the work can be ordered to be ripped out and re-done per the approved plans.

If an existing tub is replaced with a shower - will this trigger ADA?

So, what is the ballpark time from when an architect submits plans until it gets approved both with an without an expediter?

Comment removed.

I am astounded at the job title referred to as expediter! How do clients in NYC justify spending 6k-8k on an expediter for projects that may have a construction budget for a small renovation of say 20-30K, especially when the architectural fees for the given work might not even be as high - and that's for producing the construction docs. If this is the case a potential client would be looking at paying nearly 50% in fees to complete a small job!? As an architect previously practicing in New Orleans, I routinely filed/obtained permits for all types of projects & it was incorporated into my fees. Why does it seem commonplace for someone else have to perform this function in NYC?...It can't be mission impossible & it can't just be about a lil corruption & taking care of the right people, after all I did business in New Orleans of all places without an expediter!


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