New Rules for Balcony Enclosures Impact NYC Buildings

October 20, 2015

Balcony Enclosures

The existence of all types of balcony enclosures is in jeopardy.  Proof of legal erection must be available or the enclosure must be removed for all buildings subject to the requirements of the Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP).

The Department of Buildings (DOB) has rescinded a June 1976 Memo originally allowing temporary enclosures to be erected on building balconies.  The memo, which legalized an activity already taking place citywide, required enclosures with windows and fixed panels be filed as a “Building Notice” in order to be erected legally.  The enclosures were seen as temporary (without plumbing, HVAC, or flooring) and did not add habitable square footage to the building.  Open screen enclosures were allowed with no requirement to file the work, until October 2011 when RCNY 101-14 exempted only open screen balcony enclosures on balconies less than 40 feet above grade from permit requirements.

All types of balcony enclosures now fall under the mandate of FISP and must be inspected as part of the façade inspection requirements as an appurtenance to the building (see DOB Industry Summary from July 2014 here: DOB Industry Summary for Balcony Enclosures – July 31 2014).  The FISP division at the DOB has conveyed enclosures that cannot be proven as legal and are not removed will relegate the building to UNSAFE status in the 9th Cycle.

Since the Memo was rescinded in December 2014, balcony enclosures must be legalized (have a Building Permit) or be torn down.  This ruling impacts hundreds of buildings in NYC.

Screened enclosures less than 40 feet above grade may still be installed without a permit.  For enclosures above 40 feet, the ruling is, unfortunately, not clear. If the Owner can produce a Building Permit, then it was legally installed and can remain as pre-existing.  If a Building Permit cannot be produced, it’s possible the DOB could issue a violation for not filing a Building Permit under the original Memo.  At this time the DOB has no protocol in place to legalize pre-existing enclosures that were built without the benefit of filing at the DOB.

Please know that HLZAE is very aware of this issue and its potential impact on your building.  We have had and continue to have conversations with DOB administrators, gaining clarification as they sort through this issue. As new information becomes available, we will pass it on to you, our clients and industry partners, as soon as possible.

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