Question: I have received a few notices from my co-op board about outstanding Department of Buildings (DOB) contractor applications (plumbing and electric) that were never appropriately closed with the Department of Buildings. These were done by previous owners. I don’t even know what it means to “close an application” or how “hiring a contractor” to close them would work, but I have nothing to do with it and refuse to hire a contractor to “close” someone else’s work a decade ago. What are my options here?
— Holding the bag in Hudson Heights
This should not be a big deal, and depending on how much work was done, it may not cost much either, maybe a few hundred bucks. Your co-op board should have all of the information about what was done, who did it and when; you can also check with the Department of Buildings.
The simplest way to find out what you need to do is to attend one of the department’s weekly “Homeowners Nights” meetings, which are held Tuesday evenings in each borough. You don’t need an appointment. Just explain your predicament to the department representatives, show them what paperwork you have pulled together, and ask them what you should do. They won’t bite your head off.
For minor — so-called Alt 2 or Alt 3 — alterations, you may need to do no more than just get a sign-off from the original contractor. If you can’t track them down, you can hire a professional — perhaps even the building’s own architect or engineer — to check the work and prepare a notice of completion for the DOB. It will then issue a letter of completion. And everything is done.
Getting OKs for more extensive Alt 1 renovations may cost you more money and time, and will require more legwork at the DOB, along with an official inspection.
A final note: Who should you be angry with for putting you in this situation? The seller? The board? Your lawyer? I say all of the above. The seller was remiss in not making sure the job was properly finished, all the way through the DOB sign-off. Ditto the board; they should have insisted years ago that the work get its final approval. Finally, your real estate lawyer should have spotted the open permit application when doing the due diligence on your apartment purchase. You have been mistreated by them all.
It would be nice to say, “Sue the SOBs!” but unless you wind up being hit for several thousands of dollars for new repairs or hiring professionals, it’s not going to be worth it. I’d let them each know your displeasure, however, with letters firmly requesting that they help cover your costs.
David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.
Hey, why not like StreetEasy on Facebook and follow @streeteasy on Instagram?