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Local Law 55 of 2018: NYC Asthma-Free Housing Act

In January 2018, rising asthma cases in New York City prompted the NYC Council to pass Local Law 55: Asthma-Free Housing Act, or the Indoor Allergen Hazards Law.

The purpose of Local Law 55 is to remove indoor allergen hazards that trigger asthma to:

  • Prevent new asthma cases.
  • Stop the worsening of existing asthma cases.

Read on and find out more about Local Law 55.

Below is an overview of the article:

  • What is asthma? 
    • Indoor allergen hazards as asthma triggers 
  • The Local Law 55 in a nutshell
  • Who will be affected by Local Law 55?
  • The Responsibilities under Local Law 55
    • Responsibilities of property owners
    • Responsibilities of tenants
  • Violations and penalties under Local Law 55

What is asthma? What are indoor allergen hazards?

Asthma is a long-term respiratory condition affecting many New York City residents. It is a lung disease that affects the airways of the lungs. The airways are where the air goes in and out when you breathe. Inhaling asthma triggers cause irritation and inflammation. It then narrows the airways and causes breathing difficulties.

Asthma is a manageable yet severe lung disease. One of the primary ways to manage asthma is to improve Indoor air quality (IAQ). IAQ is the quality of air inside structures. It refers to how the air relates to the health and comfort of those residing there.

Local Law 55 aims to improve indoor air quality by removing indoor allergen hazards in NYC residential properties.

Indoor allergen hazards as asthma triggers

Indoor allergen hazards are substances that cause asthma attacks or worsen asthma symptoms. Local Law 55’s list of common indoor allergen hazards in New York City are:

  • Mold
  • Mice and rats
  • Cockroaches

The Local Law 55 in a nutshell

Local Law 55 of 2018 Indoor Allergen Hazards Law passed by the New York City Council sought to improve indoor air quality and required landlords:

  • To keep their tenants’ homes safe from asthma triggers, particularly mold, rodents, pests, and
  • To safely fix conditions that cause these problems.
  • To provide tenants with long-term solutions for healthy, safe, and satisfying dwelling conditions.

NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Department of Buildings (DOB) actively enforce this local law. Penalties, including fees and costly property remediation, are imposed on violators.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for pest infestations

Integrated Pest Management or IPM is the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended pest management approach. It is a practical, environmentally sensitive approach using the most economical means to protect people, property, and the environment from hazards.

Safe removal of indoor mold

Safety is the top concern in mold remediation in NYC. Guidelines are available to protect people, property, and the environment from mold exposure and other hazards such as asbestos and lead. So, remediation must comply with Local Law 55 standard procedures for indoor environmental hazards. 

Who will be affected by Local Law 55?

There are two categories of property owners mandated to follow Local Law 55:

  1. All owners of three or more apartment buildings, and 
  2. All property owners of housing units, including co-ops, condos, shelters, and public housing, with a tenant who has asthma:

Landlords under the said categories have mandated responsibilities under Local Law 55. Their tenants have responsibilities as well. 

Responsibilities of property owners and tenants under Local Law 55

Both property owners and tenants are mandated by Local Law 55 to manage any indoor allergen hazard issues. Their responsibilities are as follows:

Responsibilities of property owners

Property owners must use integrated pest management practices (IPM).

Below is the list of IPM practices under Local Law 55 

  • Use a HEPA vacuum to remove and thoroughly clean pest nests, pest wastes, and other debris. When cleaning, limit the spread of dust to help improve indoor air quality.
  • Repair and seal all holes, gaps, and cracks in walls, ceilings, floors, molding, baseboards, surrounding areas of pipes and conduits, and around and within cabinets. 
  • Seal and cover all door gaps by attaching door sweeps leading to hallways, basements, or outside.
  • Repair all drains, faucets, and other plumbing materials that collect all water and have leaks to remove all possible water sources for pests.
  • Safely and sparingly use pesticides. 
  • If pesticides must be used to correct violations, only the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation licensed pest professionals can use and apply the pesticide. 

Indoor mold must be safely removed by:

For cleaning moldy areas with an area measuring 10 square feet or less with less than 10 apartments: 

  • Use HEPA vacuums or wet mops to clean visible dust in moldy areas.
  • All standing water, leaks, and moisture conditions must be fixed and removed.
  • Before cleaning moldy areas, move furniture away from the work area or cover it with plastic sheeting.
  • All mold-cleaning-related waste must be disposed of in properly sealed heavy-duty plastic bags. 

If moldy areas are 10 square feet or more in a building with 10 or more apartments:

  • Only the New York State Department of Labor–licensed mold assessor and remediator are allowed to clean the area and must comply with New York City Administrative Code section 24-154 and New York State Labor Law Article 32.

Those with three or more apartments must:

  • At least once a year and more often if necessary, inspect every apartment and common areas for:
    • Infestations of pests such as cockroaches and rodents.
    • Mold.
    • Conditions that lead to mold and pest infestations.
  • Respond to tenants’ requests or complaints for inspection.
  • Provide the tenant a copy of the HPD fact sheet and send a notice with each tenant’s lease that clearly states the property owners’ and tenants’ responsibilities to keep the building indoor allergen-free. 
  • Before a new tenant moves in, landlords must ensure that all vacant apartments are thoroughly clean and free of mold and pest infestations.

Responsibilities of tenants

According to Local Law 55, tenants are co-responsible for keeping their dwelling unit and building safe for people with asthma. Their tasks include:

  • Keep their dwelling unit clean and dry.
  • All food must be kept in sealed containers.
  • Sinks and counters must be clean and free of food debris.
  • Newspapers and paper bags must be neatly kept and not cluttered.
  • Garbage cans must have tight-fitting lids.
  • Tenants must take out all garbage and recycle waste every day. Garbage bags must be tied up before being put in compactor chutes.
  • Avoid strong-smelling pesticides and chemicals, such as in cleaning products and air fresheners.
  • Report any signs of pests, water leaks, or holes or cracks in walls and floors to property owners or building superintendents.
  • Allow building staff into homes to make any needed repairs.
  • Call 311 if property owners or superintendents need to fix problems or if repair work safety precautions were not observed.

Violations and penalties under Local Law 55

NYC HPD and DOB are actively enforcing Local Law 55. These agencies are mandated to act immediately on tenants’ complaints. Here is a rundown of steps that happens when tenants report violations:

  • Notices of violations will be sent to non-compliant property owners. 
  • Before the deadline stated in the notice, property owners must:
    • Correct violations
    • File a certification of correction
  • Violations are classified as:
    • Class A: 
      • The area of mold presence is less than 10 feet in a room within a dwelling unit.
        or
      • Less than 30 square feet or 50 square feet total in any one level, a hallway, or a common area.
    • Class B.
      • The area of mold presence is 10 to 29 square feet in a room within a dwelling unit.
        or
      • Equal to or greater than 30 square feet or 50 square feet in total in any one level, a hallway, or a common area.
      • Presence of all other pests except mice, rats, or cockroaches.
    • Class C
      • The area of mold presence is equal to or greater than 30 square feet in a room within a dwelling unit. 
      • Presence of mice, rats, or cockroaches in any dwelling unit or common area.

NYC will impose penalty fees according to the severity of the violation. It can run from 10 to 125 dollars per day to a maximum of 10,000 dollars. 

When violations are not corrected within the specified time on the Notice of Violation or through eCertification, upgrading of violations will be as follows:

  • Cases when Class A violation will be upgraded to Class B violation:
    • If mold hazard correction has not been done within the specified period and HPD has re-inspected the violation within 70 days of the certification period, and the condition still exists.
    • If Class A violation is falsely certified.
  • Cases when Class B violation will be upgraded to Class C violation:
    • If mold hazard correction has not been done within the specified period and HPD has re-inspected the violation within 70 days of the certification period, and the condition still exists.
    • If Class B violation is falsely certified.

Only the registered property owner or the registered party responsible for the property may certify the correction of violations. Check out the HPD site and links for more information.

CONCLUSION

Asthma is a serious yet manageable condition. Indoor allergen hazard removal in NYC residential properties, namely: mold, mice, rats, and cockroaches, will help lessen asthma cases in the city. 

Safe removal of pests through integrated pest management (IPM) and indoor mold, with the diligence of property owners and tenants, will help reduce asthma incidence. So, NYC landlords and residents need to have easy access to information and help in remediation. 

Call for licensed professional pest exterminators and mold removal experts in your area for speedy correction of Local Law 55 violations.

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