While spectacular collapses such as at the Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida and recent balcony collapses in California have dominated the media, NYC and Chicago have had their own incidents that led to legislative action. In 2013, Jennifer Rosoff of NYC was killed when the railing on her 16th floor balcony buckled. In 2003, a balcony collapsed during a party in Chicago, killing 13 people and injuring more than 50 others. The second accident still stands as the deadliest porch collapse in the U.S. Both cities, as well as others, responded to these and other recent events by implementing their own legislation regarding multifamily residential building maintenance and façade inspections.

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So, what do NYC’s façade inspection ordinances require?

The NYC Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP, or Local Law 11) requires NYC buildings over six stories with a basement to have their façades inspected and repaired at least once every five years. The law was recently enhanced after several deadly accidents occurred to further protect New Yorkers from falling debris. In 2020, the Periodic Façade Inspection (PFI) was introduced to improve the safety of building facades by allowing for early detection of façade deterioration and for defects to be rectified promptly. Approximately 12,500 buildings in NYC are subject to FISP.

Some of the expansions under FISP include:

  • Now, Qualified Exterior Wall Inspectors (QEWIs) must have seven years of experience with buildings over six stories to perform the inspection. Additionally, there are stipulations regarding who is qualified to work under QEWIs.
  • Photos must be submitted documenting the inspection.
  • The updated law more clearly differentiates between Safe with a Repair and Maintenance Program (SWARMP) conditions from Unsafe conditions, with deadlines for correction.
  • Inspection reports must be filed within 60 days of the inspection and posted in the lobby or vestibule of the building within 30 days. Failing to file the report results in a $5,000 fine, plus additional penalties.

How are Chicago’s ordinances different?

Illinois has its own local regulations regarding the inspection of decks and similar structures. Two types of inspections are required on a regular cycle. 
Critical inspection: Critical examinations, which require hands-on inspection on one 24-foot-long scaffolding per elevation, are required at four, eight, or twelve years, depending on the building classification. Critical examinations also require one inspection opening per elevation on buildings 50 years or older for cladding that consists of masonry, stone or terra cotta that is affixed to the building structure with concealed corrodible or corrosion-resistant metal fasteners.  
Ongoing inspection: In addition to the critical examinations, building owners are required to submit an ongoing inspection and repair program report to the city at the halfway point of the critical examination cycle. Hands-on inspections of the façade are not required for the ongoing inspection. 
For more on how these evolving regulations concern your properties, reach out to our experts to learn how EBI can support you by helping you stay in compliance and reduce liability risks.