2004-12-09 / Top Stories

Concerned Homeowners Attend Informative Civic Meeting

DCAInspector Moses Layne
DCAInspector Moses Layne D. Rybstein

A recent wave of concern regarding home improvement and building code violations has swept Canarsie resulting in a large turnout for last Thursday’s monthly Friends United Block Asso-ciation (FUBA) meeting at Temple Shaare Emeth on Farragut Road.

The meeting spotlighted home owners’ fears of an ominous “knock on the door” by city inspectors looking for code violations, remedies that may cost thousands of dollars.

Senior Inspector Moses Layne of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and licensed professional engineer Harold Weinberg were introduced by FUBA President Gardy Brazela to help home owners understand what they must do to comply with local standards.

After Brazela distributed excerpts from the U.S. Constitution, he said, “The police need a court order to enter your home.” However, Weinberg count-ered, citing public safety, stating, “… health, building, and fire inspectors do not need court orders.”

Layne and Weinberg then sorted through the maze of regulations that cover alterations, new construction, waivers, and violations.

“When you hire someone to do home improvement work that exceeds $200, according to the law, you must engage someone with a home improve-ment contractor’s license from DCA,” said Layne.

Layne cited as exceptions, decorators and painters, as not having to be licensed, adding, “Of course new build-ing projects are regulated under the Buildings Department and not by DCA.”

“Licensed contractors must provide the homeowner with a written contract which includes approximate start and end dates for the work to be perform-ed, materials used, a description of the work, an estimate price, and a final price at completion,” Layne continued.

He also told the audience that a notice of cancellation clause is also required to allow a home owner to back out of a contract within three days. Licensed contractors, he pointed out, should also have insurance.

“Curb cuts and non-structural home alterations valued at less than $10,000 can be filed by a home owner with the Buildings Department,” said Weinberg. “Anything else must be filed by either a licensed professional engineer or a registered architect. Before work starts you must get an approval.”

Today’s regulations are stringent regarding front, back, and side yard footage if you are thinking about expanding your home. Certificate of Occupancy (C of O’s), asbestos remo-val, waterfront revitalizations, basement apartments, and converting garages into apartments all require the services of a professional engineer or registered architect.

Touching on illegal occupancies Weinberg noted, “It is illegal to live in a cellar. A cellar is defined as a room 50 percent or more below curb level. The zoning law outlines what you can build on your property and variances are exceptions to the zoning law. When you are denied a variance, you have a right to appeal.”

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