Local Law 55 Effective 1/19/19

Get ready: in less than 2 months (1/19/19), NYC Local Law of 2018, A.K.A. NYC Indoor Asthma Allergen Hazards in Residential Dwellings and Pest Management, goes live! It will require additional time and education, with more responsibilities and certifications, some of which are not so easy to consistently manage.   We first introduced this last year, when the bill became law.  Now that we’re only days away, I think it’s critical to review some of the key highlights and challenges to be faced when complying. Just to be clear, this law, effective 1/19/19, applies to ALL multiple-dwelling property owners who are now going to be responsible for investigating and remediating indoor allergen hazards like mold, mice and rats, and cockroaches in multiple dwellings (exemptions may apply to NYCHA and Coops & Condos). In this article, we’re going to focus on some of the new law’s requirements and challenges.

What makes this law’s compliance challenging is that NYC is asking us to manage Mother Nature.  It‘s hard to beat nature, but it is possible to handle one of its occurrences: indoor mold (another bad, four-letter word). The new law requires protection against indoor asthma & pest management.  This discussion is going to concentrate on the mold component, not the pest management.

First, we need to understand the verbiage that NYC will be using so we can truly appreciate the compliance demands and its difficulties.

Indoor allergen hazard – any indoor infestation of cockroaches, mice or rats, or conditions conducive to such infestation, or an indoor mold hazard.

Indoor mold hazard –any condition of mold growth on an indoor surface, building structure, or ventilation system, including mold that is within wall cavities, that is likely to cause harm to a person or that has been cited as a violation.

Visible mold – mold that is readily identifiable by visual inspection, including mold that is hidden behind furniture or other interior obstructions.

Remediation or Remediate – reasonable efforts to eradicate indoor mold hazards in accordance with Administrative Code section 27-2017.9 and these rules. (For Section 27-2017.9– See Below.)

What are some of your new responsibilities and how can you avoid their very sensitive and potentially litigious outcomes? First, education is critical!  Someone is going to need to properly communicate moisture intrusion and mold related events to your residents.  Secondly, because this new law’s definition of Remediation/ Remediate (above) specifically requires compliance with Section 27-2017.9, which demands, in section B., correcting an indoor mold hazard violation or assessing/ correcting an indoor mold hazard identified as a result of an inspection by an owner, such assessment or work shall be performed in compliance with article 32 of the New York State (NYS) labor law and any rules promulgated thereunder. Article 32 of NYS labor law requires licensing and minimum work standards for professionals engaged in mold assessment and remediation.

There are three main components to the law. Training: The mold program will protect consumers by requiring contractors to obtain appropriate training prior to being licensed to perform mold assessment, remediation, or abatement services.  Licensing: Contractors will not be allowed to advertise or perform covered work without the required license, with limited exceptions For example, home or business owners performing work on their own properties.  Minimum Work Standards: The mold program also establishes new minimum work standards for mold assessments and remediation activities by licensed professionals, including: 1)Protection against fraud by prohibiting the performance of both the assessment and remediation on the same property by the same individual; 2) Protection against fraud by requiring an independent mold assessment to define the scope of the remediation work; 3) Identification of disinfectant products, consistent with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards; 4) Provision of personal protection equipment to employees, as necessary; 5) Posted notice of the project and the contractor’s licenses; and 6) The completion of a post-remediation assessment.

This means, beginning 1/19/19, when a NYC multifamily property owner has to correct an indoor mold hazard violation or assess/ correct an indoor mold hazard identified as a result of an inspection by the owner, such assessment and remediation work shall require both a NYS licensed Mold Assessor AND a NYS licensed Mold Remediator. Both parties (Assessor & Remediator) are required to comply with NYS mold licensure law. NYS Mold Assessor and Remediator certifications can be obtained at NAETI.com.

My recommendation: Don’t wait to get a few members of your staff trained.

The next two areas of focus/concern are within the definitions of both indoor mold hazard and visible mold. The presence of viable mold spores within wall cavities is highly likely for a multitude of reasons, however, their mere presence without sufficient moisture content present will not support germination/growth. But, if Mother Nature elects to create such a situation that moisture levels rise or Relative Humidity (RH) goes above 60%, it is very likely that mold will begin to germinate/grow. It won’t be easily identifiable or controllable by building owners. For that reason, you want to keep RH below 60% when and where you can!

To assess what levels of RH currently exist within a property, a simple RH meter is appropriate, especially when coupled with thermal imaging. Assistance can be provided by LEW Corporation, a NYS mold certified organization. Unless you have X-Ray mold vision, pay the most attention to building envelope leaks.

The second area of focus is within the definition of visible mold. “Visible mold that is identifiable by visual inspection….” might not be visible if “hidden behind furniture or other interior obstructions.” So visible mold does not have to be easily visible. Now owners and their staff are going to be required to physically move residents’ belongings, including furniture, to assure no signs of visible mold are growing behind them, which is not easy when the resident is a hoarder or has a lot of furniture.

Let it be known that the above, and most of the requirements of this law, impact NY City Co-ops and Condominium Associations, unless the units are occupied by the shareholder of record.

It should also be shared that, in accordance with section 27-2017.10 of the new law, NYC HPD shall take enforcement action as is necessary, including performing the work or arranging for the performance of the work to correct the certified condition. Very similar to the NYC HPD arranging for a lead abatement violation to be corrected by the city’s awarded lead abatement contractors – it’s usually a bad bet!!  It’s always better to address the issue with your team than the city’s team.

The indoor allergens, mold and pest, are to be regulated beginning 1/19/19, whether initiated by complaints of residents, annual owner required visual inspections, lease turnovers, or NYC inspections.  What should you do? Get some of your staff trained in NYS Mold certifications (NAETI) or get affiliated with a NYS mold assessor or remediator (LEW Corporation). Perform a visual survey for moisture intrusion and mold growth, and address concerns prior to the effective date of law. Consider purchasing a moisture meter and thermal imaging, but, most importantly, have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for compliance with Local Law 55 of 2018 in place prior to 1/1/19, even if the SOP changes afterwards.

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