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  • Writer's pictureJohn Min

Help! How do I file my renovation?!

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

When undertaking a renovation project in New York City, one of the common obstacles that catches owners off guard is obtaining the necessary approvals before starting. At JKM Architecture, we understand that the first step is to get your renovation project reviewed and approved by the building’s owners’ association, with the exception of private houses and some small brownstone buildings. This process is typically overseen by the building's management company, and all required documentation is collected and presented to the board as a packet. The approval process typically takes 2-4 weeks, assuming no permits are required. However, if permits are necessary, final approval is only issued after obtaining them.

Each building may have specific information required for project approval, which may include a detailed scope of work, drawings showing existing and proposed conditions, contractor licenses and insurances, and any processing fees required by the building. Once all documents are collected, the management company will forward the submittal package to the board for review. The board may review the project via email or require a discussion at a monthly board meeting. The board may also require the building’s architect to review the plans and scope of work, which can take 1-2 weeks to complete. During the review, the architect may ask for clarifications or changes to be made to the plans and scope of work. They may also suggest additional work, such as waterproofing kitchen/bathroom floors and walls, soundproofing for new hardwood floor installation, soundproofing for washer/dryer installation, replacing water and waste lines back to the apartment riser, or filing permits with the Building Department.

At JKM Architecture, we understand the typical filings required with the DOB for renovations, which include Electrical Permits, LAA Plumbing Permits, OP-128 forms, and full permit filings. Electrical permits are required when adding 10 or more additional outlets or lighting devices and replacing/upgrading circuit breaker panels. This permit is usually issued the same day the application is submitted. LAA Plumbing permits are used when adding up to 2 additional fixtures, running new plumbing or gas piping (relocating items), or mounting new fixtures on an existing rough (for example, removing a tub and installing a shower). The time to obtain LAA permits averages 4-8 weeks, but it can be extended during winter months. An asbestos inspection (not necessarily abatement) will need to be performed by a licensed inspector as per DOB regulation if an LAA permit is required. An OP-128 form is submitted to the DOB by the plumber at the end of the month indicating the ordinary plumbing jobs that were performed that don't require a permit.

The most extended processing time is typically required for filing a full permit for the job. Any addition or removal of walls (structural or non-structural), including dropped ceilings, may trigger DOB filing. While JKM Architecture can advise when DOB filing appears to be needed, the ultimate decision is in the hands of the building's architect/engineer and the co-op board. Full permits require architectural drawings from a licensed architect, and there are two reviews that will take place. The plans must first go through the building’s architect and co-op board. After they finish their review and all their comments have been satisfied and they give their approval for the scope of work, the architect can fill the drawings with the DOB. It is crucial because some work that is legally allowed by the DOB may not be approved by the building's co-op board. For instance, extending a bathroom or kitchen beyond its original footprint and the footprint of the same wet area below (wet-over-dry). The two reviews cannot take place simultaneously as the DOB application requires the signature of the board members. Some projects can be professionally certified by the architect, while others need to be fully reviewed by a plan examiner in the Building Department. The timing to get the project approved depends on how many comments/objections the examiner has, as well as their schedule to meet with the architect to go over the objections and the architect's proposed changes to satisfy those objections.

While professional certification may speed up the process at the beginning of a project, it can turn out to be costly in the end. On average, about 20% of professionally certified projects are chosen to be audited due to abuse of the system. They have been trying to do more audits on professionally certified projects. These audits are usually conducted when the architect applies to have the project signed off and consist of a DOB plan examiner reviewing the plans as well as making an unscheduled job site visit to confirm that the final conditions match the drawings. One of the downsides is that if the DOB finds any issue with the drawing or the final conditions do not match the plans, they will perform a full plan review and can request changes to be made to the construction even if the project has been fully completed.

At JKM Architecture, we also understand that when permits are filed for a job, the time to complete the project can be delayed. Since inspections are required with most permits, when certain phases of the project are reached, the project may need to stop until the project passes inspection. While we do our best to schedule inspections to minimize lost time, the actual schedule of the inspectors is out of our control. The inspectors could be backed up and make us wait longer than normal to come to the inspector, or they may not show up when they are scheduled to. For example, final inspections for electrical permits tend to take place 1-3 months after a request is submitted for the final inspection.

At JKM Architecture, we are here to guide you through the entire renovation process, from concept to completion. We will work with you every step of the way to ensure that your renovation project meets all necessary requirements and is completed on time and within budget.

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