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Attacking Asthma Allergens

The New York City Council passed a law in December – Local Law 55 of 2018 – that’s designed to improve the way owners of multifamily buildings deal with mold, pests, and other asthma triggers. Previously, boards and landlords responded to allergens only when residents had a complaint; now, it’s their responsibility to find problems before they start.

The law’s intentions are lofty; its wording is murky. Local Law 55 requires owners of “multiple dwellings” to perform annual inspections of each unit and the common areas of their buildings. When a new resident moves into a unit or a lease is renewed, the owner of the building has to give the resident notice of the rules regarding these hazards. In addition, residents must be given a pamphlet from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that contains a fact sheet about mold and allergens. There is no required filing to prove that the inspections and notice have occurred, and no instructions as to who should be doing the actual inspections.

But there is some confusion about who the law covers. Attorney Eric Goidel, a senior partner at Borah Goldstein Altschuler Nahins & Goidel, says that the law was poorly written and ambiguous, seeming to exempt co-ops and condos but include co-op and condo sublessors and rental apartments. In January, the city moved to end the confusion by releasing a statement saying that co-ops and condos are not exempt. The issue will likely be resolved in the courts. 

Even so, Goidel advises boards to start complying with the statute sooner rather than later. “I think at least for now,” he says, “boards should be asking shareholders or unit owners to sign a certification or confirmation that the board has complied with Local Law 55 of 2018. That way we have some protection on file in the event that a court tries to shift some obligation to us.” 

For more information, check out our sister publication, New York Apartment Law Insider:

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