The combining of residential units has become increasingly popular in New York City. Residential combinations can range from the joining of two apartments to turning a larger multiple dwelling into a single family home.
Combining residential units can be tricky. Major upgrades to fire and life safety systems, accessibility and egress may be in order. Here are the leading issues surrounding residential unit combinations.
Is There a Change in Use, Egress or Occupancy?
If a residential unit combination requires a change in use, egress or occupancy then the building is required update to 2014 accessibility. If it does not require those critical changes, then the job can be filed as an alteration 2 or 3 under D14. Filing a job under D14 is advantageous because professionally certified architects or engineers can sidestep plan reviews and sign off the inspections.
If a building owner intends to combine two units in a three-unit building, the occupancy group changes from an R-2 to R-3, possibly requiring sprinklers. It’s possible a building owner wants to convert a multiple dwelling into a single family residence. This is also a R-2 to R-3 use change that may require sprinklers. R-3 buildings generally do not require accessibility upgrades.
Value of Alterations
Aside from use, occupancy or egress changes, the key determinant affecting residential alterations is whether the value of the alteration is more than half of the building’s value. If it is more than 50%, the entire building will have to be updated to 2014 accessibility.
Assuming there is no use, occupancy or egress change and the value of construction does not eclipse 50% of the entire building value (it rarely does), a general rule for updating to the 2014 Building Code is whatever you touch has to be current code. If you alter bathrooms, the bathrooms must be 2014 compliant (or bathroom prototypes). If you alter windows, the windows must be 2014 compliant. If the renovation calls for a location change of the main entrance door, then egress needs to comply with 2014 code and so on.
Two Unit Combinations
Many residential combinations are simple two apartment combos that can be filed as alteration 2 under D14. The DOB released TPPN 3/97 to clarify restrictions for two-unit combinations filed as alteration 2. To be filed alteration 2, apartment combinations must be located on the same floor or adjacent floor with connecting stair, but no more than two stories are permitted to combine. There must be an equal or lower number of zoning rooms. Building egress cannot be touched. One of the two kitchens must be removed and plumbing connections capped. Of course these things can be done, just not within an alteration 2 application.