Local Law 11

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New York City Local Law 11/98 requires that owners of buildings in excess of six stories have their exterior walls inspected every five years by a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI) and have the findings reported to the Department of Buildings (DOB) within 60 days of the inspection.


Facade Collapse
DOB Work Permit

Local Law 11/98 was first propositioned in 1997 in response to an incident on Madison Avenue that saw an entire portion of a building collapse onto the streets below.

The preceding law (local law 10/80) enacted in 1980 required certified contractors to inspect facades facing streets or sidewalks. They would classify their findings into one of three categories: safe, precautionary, or unsafe.

However, after several facade failures, including the one in 1997, New York City officials decided to implement even stricter guidelines through the passing of Local Law 11.[1]

Previously, inspections were only required to be carried out at street level every five years. Now inspections are a two part process requiring a visual inspection using a telephoto lenses from neighboring buildings as well as up close using hydraulic-type platforms or scaffolding. This process can be carried out in two days.

Facade Failures

A study conducted in the United Kingdom revealed six causes for facade failure.[2]

  • 35% of failures were attributed to poor workmanship
  • 22% of failures were attributed to inadequate designs
  • 18% of failures were attributed to inadequate fabrication
  • 16% of failures were attributed to improper supervision during the construction process
  • 5% of failures were attributed to faulty materials
  • 4% of failures were attributed to improper building maintenance


The DOB charges a filing fee of $265 per report and an additional $100 for filing a corrected or updated report. Applications for time extensions on repairs costs an additional $135.[3]


Failing to file a report will result in a fine of $1000 per year as well as monthly late fees of $250 after the year has elapsed. If an original report is rejected by the DOB a follow-up must be filed within 45 days before being subjected to late fees. If repairs are not completed within the allotted time frame given by the DOB a levy of $1000 per month will be assessed.[4]

Recent Examples

Dec 25, 2012 Manhattan Facade Collapse

Despite the enforcement of Local Law 11 and subsequent crack down, failing facades still plague the city.

Icon Grill Facade Collapse in Seattle

On Christmas Day 2012, residents of 1887 on Sixth Avenue where evacuated after a portion of the facade collapsed onto the streets below, completely exposing the top two floors. The building had been inspected in February 2012 and deemed safe. There were no injuries to report.

On April 4, 2013 22 year-old Dworin St. Thomas was seriously injured when a facade on the corner of Queens Boulevard and 92nd street fell on top of him.

On April 22, 2013 a construction worker was hospitalized after a portion of a building facade at 3119 30th Avenue collapsed upon him.


  1. The Falcon Group
  2. United Kingdom Building Association
  3. Hoffman Architects
  4. New York City Department of Buildings

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