Regional Services Unit - Complaints


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Complaints

The Division of Building Standards and Codes (BSC) has several primary missions related to the Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (Uniform Code) and the Energy Conservation Construction Code (Energy Code), as provided for in Article18 of the Executive Law (§370 et. seq.) and Article 11 of the Energy Law (§11-101 et. seq.). Among the responsibilities of the Division is the establishment of minimum standards for administration and enforcement of the Uniform Code and the Energy Code. In most cases, the Uniform Code and Energy Code are enforced by the local government (i.e., city, town or village) in which a building is located.

The minimum standards for code enforcement and administration are found in Part 1203 and Part 1208 of Department of State regulations, Title 19 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (19 NYCRR). In brief, Part 1203 requires each local government that enforces the Uniform Code to:

  • use its code enforcement powers to protect the public from the hazards of fire and inadequate construction by enforcing the Uniform Code;
  • require and issue building permits for most, but not all construction, and to obtain sufficient information to allow it to determine that the proposed construction conforms with the Uniform Code;
  • conduct construction inspections;
  • conduct fire safety and property maintenance inspections of certain existing buildings;
  • establish and implement procedures for identifying and addressing unsafe structures and equipment; and
  • establish and implement procedures for addressing bona fide complaints about conditions or activities which asset noncompliance with the Uniform Code.

Part 1208 requires code enforcement personnel appointed after January 1, 1985 to complete a minimum basic training program within one year of their initial appointment date.

The BSC is authorized to receive complaints about enforcement of the Uniform Code and the Energy Code. While the BSC does provide limited assistance in resolving complaints, the Department of State does not have the authority to fashion remedies for many complaints related to construction, operation and maintenance of buildings and premises. Except with regard to manufactured housing (formerly known as mobile homes), the Department's authority with regard to these concerns is based on Article 18 of the Executive Law, Section 381(3), which provides:

"On and after the first day of July, nineteen hundred eighty-five, the secretary shall have power to investigate and conduct hearings relative to whether administration and enforcement of the uniform fire prevention and building code complies with the minimum standards promulgated pursuant to subdivision one of this section. At least ten days written notice of any such hearing shall be provided to the elective or appointive chief executive officer or, if there be none, the chairman of the legislative body of the local government or county whose administration and enforcement of the uniform code is at issue."

It should be noted that BSC has no authority to address issues that have their origin prior to January 1, 1984, as the Uniform Code only came into effect on that date. However, buildings that pre-existed the Uniform Code are subject to maintenance provisions of the Fire Code and the Property Maintenance Code. Also, alterations to buildings which were constructed prior to January 1, 1984 are subject to the Existing Buildings Code or Appendix J of the Residential Code. Conduct relating to such buildings may be investigated by the Division.

With regard to manufactured housing, there is a separate program, established by Article 21-B of the Executive Law and Title 19 NYCRR Part 1210. Section 1210.18 addresses resolution of disputes. Information on the dispute resolution program can be downloaded from the BSC's website at http://www.dos.ny.gov/code/manuf.html. Complaints alleging substantial defects in the delivered condition, installation, service or construction of a manufactured home may be filed in writing with the Department of State, within one year and ten days after the service, installation, or issuance of a certificate of occupancy, or the expiration of any applicable provision of a contract or warranty, whichever is later. If complaints cannot be resolved informally, a hearing will be held before an administrative law judge, who has authority to direct appropriate compensation to the complainant.

While the BSC is authorized to investigate allegations that a local government is not enforcing the Uniform Code in accordance with the minimum Part 1203 and Part 1208 standards described above, the BSC is not authorized to investigate other matters that may, on the surface, appear to be about building and fire code enforcement. Examples of the types of concerns that do not come under the BSC's investigatory authority include, but are not limited to:

Personnel issues. Code enforcement officials are employees of local governments, and are subject to the terms and conditions of employment that apply in the specific local government. The BSC has no authority to discipline or discharge local code enforcement officials. In general, the BSC would have no authority to investigate allegations of activities such as:

  • selective enforcement by a local code enforcement official;
  • harassment by a local code enforcement official;
  • inappropriate or offensive conduct by a local code enforcement official; and
  • suspected illegal activity related to official duties by a local code enforcement official (e.g., accepting bribes, trespassing, slander and/or libel).

However, an allegation that a local government is failing to enforce the Uniform Code in accordance with the applicable Part 1203 and Part 1208 standards as a result of activities such as those mentioned above may fall within the investigatory authority of the BSC. Certain of the activities mentioned above may be subject to the jurisdiction of another governmental agency; for example, allegations of illegal conduct may fall under the jurisdiction of the local Police Department, the local District Attorney's office, or the State Attorney General's office.

Certification of Code Officials. Certifications are issued to a code enforcement official to indicate that he or she has completed (1) the basic code enforcement training program and (2) the annual "in-service" training programs. The BSC has no authority to revoke any such certification. However, the BSC does have the authority to investigate an allegation that a local government is employing a code enforcement official appointed on or after January 1, 1985 who has not completed the basic code enforcement training program.

Issues arising under other laws. The BSC's authority to investigate allegations that the Uniform Code and Energy Code are not being enforced in accordance with the applicable minimum standards does not include the authority to investigate matters arising under other laws, statutes and regulations relating to the construction or use of buildings and premises. For example, the BSC is not authorized to investigate allegations involving:

  • land use, planning or zoning issues;
  • encroachments over property lines;
  • environmental contamination, including activities which may be regulated by the Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), the Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) or other agencies;
  • contractual disputes, including those involving tenancies, leases and contracts for purchase or sale of real property;
  • contractual disputes involving design professionals, contractors, subcontractors and other parties providing construction related services; drainage diversion;
  • noise; and
  • accumulations of non-hazardous materials or waste.

Where a complaint does allege the failure to enforce the Uniform Code and/or Energy Code in accordance with the Part 1203 and Part 1208 standards, the BSC must consider a number of factors before deciding to begin an investigation. For example:

  • The BSC gives priority to complaints that allege situations that are likely to cause a substantial adverse effect on health, safety and security. Thus, the BSC will generally not intervene where it determines that a complaint concerns a condition that does not create a significant hazard to persons or property.
  • Resolution of complaints generally requires the cooperation of the responding local government. For this reason, if the person filing the complaint has not made a bona fide attempt to resolve his or her concerns with the local government involved, the BSC will generally not intervene. In addition, the BSC will usually not act on any complaint where there is ongoing litigation against the local government.
  • The BSC will usually not undertake a formal investigation of an allegation of a single, isolated failure to adhere to the minimum standards. For example, a complaint alleging that a local government did not require a building permit in a single case where a permit should have been required will usually not result in a formal investigation. Note, however, that we encourage anyone knowing of such a situation to call it to our attention. If the same local government is involved in a number of such reports, the cumulative affect may be sufficient to warrant an investigation.

The Uniform Code deals with issues that relate to the safety of persons who use and occupy buildings, as well as the safety of first responders who respond to fires and other emergencies in buildings. The principal concern of the Uniform Code is - and the principal concern of those responsible for enforcing the Uniform Code should be - the safety of those people and the safety of those first responders. When a code violation is identified, the first priority of those who enforce the Uniform Code should be to have the violation corrected, and not to ascertain or fix liability for the cost of the required remedy. Therefore, when a possible code violations is called to the attention of a local government, it is appropriate for the code enforcement official to investigate and, as warranted, to order the owner of the subject property to correct the violation.

To file a complaint, please click here DOS 1423 Local Code Enforcement Complaint Form to download a complaint form and for information about the other documents that will be required. Please complete the complaint form and all other required documents, submit the original complaint form and supporting documents to the BSC's main office, and send one copy of the complaint form and all supporting documents to the local government. Be sure to keep a copy of the complaint form and each supporting document for your own records. Documents submitted to the BSC may be mailed to:
                              Department of State
                              Division of Building Standards and Codes
                              One Commerce Plaza
                              99 Washington Ave, Suite 1160
                              Albany, NY 12231-0001

or may submitted by fax to (518) 486-4487, or by e-mail codes@dos.state.ny.us. If submitting by e-mail, please type "COMPLAINT" in the subject line. Once the BSC has received a complaint, it will be evaluated by central office staff. Please allow at least 30 days for processing. If it is determined that further investigation is warranted, we will assign the complaint to one of our regional offices, and will also notify you in writing.