Will DOB be on my Side for House Expansion?


    I have the following scenario that may happen. My house has a zero-lot side with a neighboring house. So their property line starts exactly where my bricks end. However, there is a space of at least 4 feet between our two houses.

    I am about to undergo a house remodeling exnesion, in which the whole back side of my house will be knocked down and a new one rebuilt using brick veneer. In order to properly tie-in the existing remaining brick to the new one, my contractor and masonry specialist will need access to their backyard.

    I am doing eveything 100% legally as I have all the permits (already pulled from the DOB), and my contractor is fully licensed and insured.

    What happens that if in order to properly complete this work (so it will get signed off by the strctural engineer and city inspector), and the neighbor refuses access to his/hers property in order to do so, is there a NYC DOB rule(s) or clause which force them to allow access in order so that this approved by BSA and DOB job gets completed?

    I would agree to all stipulations that they ask for (escept money) like what hours to work, to fix and put back everything as it was, etc.

    If anyone has comments or advice, I would really appreciate it.

    I am in Park Slope, Brooklyn — don’t know if it matters.

    8 Replies

    1. Do check the archives, this has been discussed.
      There is a law that grants a property owner access to the neighbor’s property in order to do maintenance work – I think that’s what you need.
      I was in a similar situation a few years ago and used this forum to gather information. I assume the law is still valid.
      In my case it took a lot of negotiation to get the neighbor to allow access (they knew a judge would force them to do it if it came to it) but I had to provide a lot of things so that they felt sufficiently protected in many ways, some that I hadn’t even thought of. Among other, i had to keep a flag man at all times and before the work started had to give them a check for several thousand dollars to be used in case there was damage. This was all explicitly detailed in a contract we signed before the work started. At the end they gave the check back (there was no damage to their property) and it was all fine. But they wanted to protect themselves (understandable) and were difficult to deal with (they took weeks to come back to us with small changes and then take some more weeks to get back with some follow up… over all it took almost a year.)
      So I understand you.
      Good luck.

    2. Forgive me for asking, but what would you do if you didn’t have the space between dwellings? I have to image there is another way to accomplish what needs to be done, given that so many homes in park slope don’t have space between the houses.

    3. Therev is no legal requirement for a neighbor to give you access and it is totally your problem. There is a court proceeding for these thing (Offhand an 8811 or something similar) but dob will not get involvedin that. The access requirement is only for underinning applications that you are required to give access to your neighbor for licensed engineers to come in for building integrity inspections.

    4. I don’t have the reference but I heard it from the attorney I retained when I was in a similar situation when I built an addition. Going to court is very costly and
      although you will win, you are right to avoid it. Eight years ago it cost me $2k just to squeeze an agreement out of them, without going to court. They were very difficult. Find out if there is some little thing your contractor could do for them that you would absorb. My neighbors refused everything but you can try.

    5. With sincere respect, why are you so adverse to providing better than “as was” condition. That’s like me moving into someone’s spare bedroom and refusing to pay rent because I cleaned it up afterwards. After all, if they didn’t let me in their guest room I might have to live in their yard and damage their shrubs with my . . . well, you know. It’s their land, and it’s worth a lot, and you want to occupy it for two weeks. Would I charge my neighbor? No. However, I certainly would consider that a gift of free rent, like a gift of free sugar. If they want to charge for their sugar, that seems more than fair.

    6. Thanks for the replies. Yes, we have already done the 10-day notice. I am trying to avoid spending money on a lawyer and suing them to make our relationship even worse. I would love to find exact reference to this “reasonable access” law for New York Ciy (Brooklyn) if anyone have this info.

      The area that the construction guys would need access is completely empty. No garden, no structures, no nothing. Nothing is going to be dug on their yardspace either. The only thing there is a wooden fence, which tye will happily put back after they are done. All my general contractor wants to do is 1) protect their site from any falling pebles or debris, 2) make sure my new wall is built correctly and solidly and 3) clean-up any mess on my neighbors side and leave it in “as was” condition. Remember, this is not a 2 day job. It will probably take them 2-3 weeks to correctly demo it, create new foundation and build on it. I understand that no one wants to go through this but by them making it harder for us to do the job will not make it any faster and the noise level won’t be any softer.

    7. Do you already know that they are resistant to giving you access? Having just gone through a similar renovation with highly resistant neighbors on both sides, I sympathize. But I believe I’ve read somewhere — possibly here on Brownstoner — that there is a law requiring “reasonable access” to a neighbor for upkeep of his/her property. A permitted renovation would constitute upkeep, I would think. I do know you have to provide notification in writing some set period of time before demolition. Ten days?

    8. Yes. I’ve read about it here – there was a reno blog about a garden which was done by a developer for a homeowner after he needed to use someone’s backyard to do work. You can take them to court (so consult lawyer). But perhaps you might want to agree to restore the yard to better than it was (i.e. spend money) in order to compensate them for your temporary taking.