Dilan Legislation Would Give HPD Ability To Write Violations And Enforce Compliance With Window Guard Requirements While Maximizing Use Of Agency’s Full Compliment of Housing Inspectors
New York, NY – City Council Housing and Buildings Chair Erik Martin Dilan, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced that the New York City Council has introduced legislation that will substantially streamline and enhance the City’s ability to respond to complaints about window guards and enforce compliance with the law. Currently DOHMH is primarily responsible for enforcing the window guard law and inspecting based on tenant complaints, and HPD currently installs window guards when property owners fail to do so. The new legislation introduced by Council Member Dilan will bring what is primarily a housing maintenance condition into HPD’s existing enforcement structure by giving the agency the ability to issue violations to landlords for failing to provide window guards when necessary under current guidelines.
The new legislation would streamline the process and allow HPD to leverage its full compliment of more than 310 Housing Inspectors to respond to these complaints. The majority of HPD inspection work currently occurs during the winter months in response to heat and hot water complaints. Having HPD respond to window guard complaints, which are primarily received during the spring and summer months, maximizes the use of the City’s inspection resources without compromising response time or effectiveness.
“This piece of legislation will make the current window guard law even better by streamlining the way the City responds to window guard complaints,” stated Council Member Erik Martin Dilan. “By giving HPD the authority to enforce window guard compliance and issue violations when necessary, we tap into the agency’s pool of resources and inspectors to ensure that our children continue to be safe in their homes and irresponsible owners are held accountable. I would like to thank the staff at HPD and the Council for their work on this bill and I look forward to working with Commissioner Wambua and Speaker Quinn to ensure its quick passage."
“The bill introduced by the Council provides a simple yet effective solution that streamlines the window guard inspection process by bringing it under the jurisdiction of HPD’s Code Enforcement Division,” said HPD Commissioner Wambua. “Our inspection and maintenance teams work around the clock to protect New York’s tenants. This legislation will allow them to use their training and expertise to continue to keep our children safe by reducing the risk of window falls. I thank the Health Department for their partnership, and Councilman Dilan for his leadership in introducing this critical piece of legislation.”
“New York City's Window Guard Law has saved hundreds of children's lives by preventing accidental falls from windows,” said Department of Health Commissioner Farley. “This legislation will improve window guard enforcement procedures, and strengthen our capacity to prevent childhood injury and death.”
Currently, enforcement of window guard requirements falls primarily under the jurisdiction of DOHMH. Complaints to 311 regarding a lack of or improperly installed window guards are routed to DOHMH for inspection. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Code result in the issuance of a Commissioner’s Order to Abate, which requires the landlord to install window guards in the apartment. If the landlord fails to comply, a violation is issued which may result in fines being levied, and the violation is also referred by DOHMH to HPD’s Emergency Repair Program who will then install the window guards. Additionally, HPD has the ability to issue a DOHMH Commissioner’s Orders to Abate for window guards on behalf of DOHMH, providing notice to the owner of the condition which would require the same process for correction as if DOHMH had issued the Order.
HPD is responsible for enforcing the New York City Housing and Maintenance Code (HMC) which allows the agency to respond to tenant complaints and write violations of the HMC where appropriate, instructing landlords to correct outstanding violations. By amending the HMC to include the window guard requirements that are contained in the current Health Code, HPD will be able to issue violations for missing or defective window guards as they would for any other building maintenance problem. This action will make HPD the primary agency responsible for the inspection process, and would relieve DOHMH from that responsibility. This means that property owners will no longer have to follow a separate enforcement process for window guards.
Many property owners are already familiar with HPD process since the vast majority of housing related violations are issued by HPD, and they will be able to certify the condition as corrected using the existing HPD process. Tenants, as they do now through HPD, will receive notice once a violation is certified as corrected by an owner, and have the opportunity to challenge the certification. HPD will audit certifications for window guards, as it does now for all class C violations, and will follow through with emergency repairs if the owner fails to comply.
DOHMH will continue to investigate window falls, approve the types of window guards that are acceptable for use in New York City, conduct activities in support of window fall prevention including but not limited to educational outreach and will continue to be responsible for promulgating health code and other rules pertaining to the provision of window guards.
This legislation will not change the actual window guard requirements. Owners of multiple dwellings (buildings of 3 or more apartments) must still obtain information from their tenants regarding whether a child 10 years of age or younger lives in the apartment. This is done when a new lease is entered into or when a lease is renewed. They are also still required to send every tenant a notification form once a year, so that any new need for a window guard may be reported. Based on this information, property owners are required to install an approved window guard if there is a child 10 years of age or younger or when requested by a tenant, in all apartment windows (except fire escape windows) and public area windows.
Each year, young children are injured or die in falls from unguarded windows. In 1976 the New York Board of Health implemented the window guard law, and since that time window falls in New York City have drastically declined. In 1976 there were 217 window falls reported. Only three years later, after the program was created, there were only 80 reported falls. During calendar year 2010 there were just five preventable falls reported to the Window Falls Prevention Program.
The legislation will be referred to the Housing and Buildings Committee.
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