Cleveland Building Facade Inspection Ordinance Goes Into Effect for Building Owners This June– May 17, 2016

Posted by Guest Blogger Michael J. Sikora III, Managing Officer, Sikora Law LLC; President, Omni Title LLC

The City of Cleveland recently passed its first ever Building Facade Inspection Ordinance (the Ordinance), which becomes effective on June 6, 2016.The impetus for the Ordinance was two notable and recent instances of portions of facades falling off buildings in downtown Cleveland, including the Garfield Building and the Sincere Building.Those instances, both of which occurred in a relatively short period of time, led the City to pursue passage of the Ordinance in earnest.Cleveland’s passage of the measure is somewhat ground-breaking in the sense that, according to research conducted by NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP), very few cities across the country have such an ordinance.

Below is an overview of the Ordinance and what building owners should know to remain compliant.

New Obligations for Owners

The Ordinance (as passed) applies to buildings that are at least five stories or 75 feet above grade (whichever is shorter) and more than 30 years old.The Ordinance does not apply to one-to-three family residential properties.The timetables for required inspections for buildings subject to the Ordinance are as follows:

  • All buildings subject to the Ordinance must be inspected every five years.
  • 50-plus-year old buildings must be inspected within one year after the effective date of the Ordinance.
  • 30-plus-year old buildings must be inspected within two years after the effective date of the Ordinance.

The Ordinance uses a two-tiered process, similar to what is done in Columbus.The property owner carries the burden in the first instance to submit a satisfactory inspection report from a “qualified inspector.” If the initial inspection reveals that the building facade has deterioration or unsafe conditions, then a more detailed inspection is required, followed by completion of the necessary repairs. A building that does not ultimately pass these inspections may not be occupied, and it may even need to be vacated.

The Ordinance has a fairly broad definition of “qualified inspector” to provide for a greater supply of professionals that could adequately meet the anticipated demand for these services.The Ordinance also includes a “sunset clause” that renders the Ordinance ineffective in two years.This clause creates the practical reality that the city and interested parties should work together, before the two-year expiration, to revisit the Ordinance and determine whether it should remain in effect, and if so, whether there are opportunities to improve it.

Criminal Consequences

This new Ordinance should not be taken lightly.There are criminal consequences for noncompliance, in addition to the possibility that the building may need to be vacated, as mentioned above, for failure to comply.Non-compliant building owners could be found guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor — with each day of noncompliance constituting a separate offense. For a complete copy of the Building Façade Inspection Ordinance, click here.

Collaboration at its Finest

Cleveland’s Ordinance was substantially modified throughout the drafting process to include some of the key provisions that made it into the final version, including making it a two-tiered process, broadening the term of “qualified inspector” and adding the sunset clause. These changes were made due to the tremendous insight and advocacy of NAIOP, Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) and Building Owners Management Association (BOMA). The resulting Ordinance demonstrates the power of collaboration among interested groups in our great city, including city leadership and the associations whose constituents will be most affected.

We need to continue to recognize that our city has great things happening, that powerful positive momentum is underway, and that we need to work together to capitalize on it and not let it die (or reverse course) — as has all-too-often happened in the past.

NAIOP expresses its thanks to our many talented chapter members who coordinated extensive advocacy efforts with the city, DCA and BOMA, and participated in multiple meetings and hearings within a relatively short time period.Our collaborative and concerted efforts resulted in substantial improvements to the Ordinance to make it much more manageable, while allowing it to accomplish its intended purpose before being adopted by Cleveland City Council.

Contact Mike Sikora at msikora@sikoralaw.com for further discussion.

_____________________________________________________________

About the Blogger: Michael J. Sikora III is the managing officer of Sikora Law LLC and president of Omni Title LLC.Mike serves as president of the Northern Ohio Chapter of NAIOP, board member of the Ohio State Bar Association Real Property Section, member of the American Land Title Association Title Counsel and member of the DCA Advocacy Committee. Mike is also former president of the Ohio Land Title Association.