Elevators provide an essential service for tenants of residential apartment buildings. Upgrades and repairs can upend the lives of these tenants. The Rules of the City of New York (the “Rules”) create civil penalties when a building’s only elevator is out of service. The Rules label this a “condition dangerous to human life and safety” (1 RCNY 11-02(a) (1)).
However, despite this grave sentiment, there is no requirement that the Department of Buildings (“DOB”) impose penalties for such a situation, and owners may seek a waiver from any DOB penalties (See Picaro v Pelham 1130 LLC, 2016 US Dist LEXIS 46580). The Rules provide that, when there is “work in progress for the replacement or installation of a new elevator, or a major renovation requiring the elevator be deactivated during the work,” a waiver of penalties may be granted (1 RCNY 103-2(k)(2)(iii)). To be granted, such a waiver application must also include the projected date of completion. Id.
Given elevators’ essential function, the New York City Administrative Code (the “Code”) has provided building owners with a set of guidelines to provide specific advanced notice to tenants when elevator outages are to occur.
Such outage notices, in all circumstances, must identify the type of work to be performed and the expected start and end dates. These outage notices must be made in at least English and Spanish.
For elevator alteration work, owners are required to provide notice at least 10 business days prior to the start of the work. This notice does not apply to emergency repair, minor alterations or ordinary repairs. (Code §28-304.10.1).
When elevators servicing the building are expected to be under repair for two or more hours, notice must be posted at least 24 hours prior to the start of that work (Code §28-304.10.2). For elevator outages of less than two hours, or as the result of emergency work, notice is not required to be posted. (Code §28-304.10.2).
These rules apply to residential buildings and transient housing, including hotels, but not to those residential buildings that contain two or fewer dwelling units.
The Code does not address accessibility during such outages, and does not impose any requirement on the DOB for failure to ensure this access. See Picaro v. Pelham. However, this may soon change, depending on actions to be taken by the New York City Council.
The City Council has proposed a bill to provide reasonable accommodations during outages longer than 24 hours when necessary for disabled tenants. The proposed bill would amend the
Code to provide that an owner must provide a reasonable alternative method of transportation between floors or a reasonable accommodation to such disabled tenants. This provision would not include elevators that serve only one dwelling unit that is owner-occupied, or an elevator outage that results from a power outage. It would also require owners to develop a plan detailing the alternative transportation methods, which plan would have to be made available in advance to the DOB, the City Department of Housing Preservation & Development, and tenants of the building. (See proposed bill here.)
Though there has not been any recent progress n this proposed bill, the possibility remains that notice requirements may change to accommodate disabled tenants in the near future.
The attorneys at BBG stand ready to assist building owners with regard to all legal issues involving elevator outages.