What to Know About Renovating an Apartment in NYC

Renovating an apartment or condo in New York City is truly no small undertaking.

The challenges are immense. For example, there are strict labor laws in New York that put the responsibility on the general contractor and property owner to ensure a job site is safe.

You have to deal with possible boards in your building, and you may need approvals for a lot of the changes you want to make.

There can be delays in renovating an apartment or condo, and hardly anything will be on the timeline you expect. You also have to think about how you’ll get materials to your unit.

With all those challenges in mind, renovations are certainly something New Yorkers do take on all the time, and the following are tips and things to know about the process..

new york city apartment

Be Realistic About the Timeline

As was already touched on, it’s going to be unlikely that your project will follow the timeline you hope or expect it will. Managing your expectations can help you avoid a lot of disappointment during your remodel.

There are so many things to coordinate in a New York City renovation that you wouldn’t necessarily have to deal with in other places, and there are a lot of moving parts.

If one of those parts is delayed, it affects everyone else.

If you do plan ahead, and you’re working with a good team, you can minimize some of the seemingly inevitable delays.

Be Realistic About Your Budget

Similar to timing, if you’re doing a renovation in New York City, you need to manage your own expectations about the budget.

Your budget will change, and your project will go over budget more than likely.

Your renovation is going to be more expensive due to factors specific to New York City as well, such as regulations and insurance costs.

With that being said, if you start working with the cheapest and less experienced contractor to save money, you’re probably going to pay more down the line.

Permits

If you’re renovating a house in a suburban neighborhood in Alabama, you’re likely not going to have to worry much about regulations and permits.

If you’re doing so in New York, that’s not the case.

If you’re doing something limited in scope, such as changing a bathroom, you’ll need permits for things like plumbing.

If you’re doing a full renovation, you will need an architect to submit plans to the Department of Buildings. This process can take weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of your project.

Your Owner’s Association

Another big factor in your renovation that wouldn’t apply if you were in the suburbs is your building’s owner’s association.

The associations that regulate apartment and condo buildings in New York have different rules, some of which are more strict than others.

They will all have rules dictating renovations.

For example, rules might apply to the hours you’re allowed to do work. Your board will probably hire a technical advisor who will have to approve your renovation plans.

Even outside of the owner’s association rules, you’re going to have to think about your neighbors. If you’re considering starting a renovation in the short-term, you’ll need to consider that many people are still working from home because of COVID-10. Your neighbor may not be very understanding of construction work going on all day while they’re on Zoom meetings.

You will have to give your neighbors notice, and they can file a complaint about your project.

What if Something Goes Wrong?

The idea of construction liability was touched on above, but it’s worth talking about it in more detail because it’s a significant issue. You need to know what your insurance covers and who’s responsible in different situations if something goes wrong.

For example, liability insurance is used when something goes wrong with the building itself. If someone is hurt on the job, that falls to worker’s compensation.

Your contractor needs to have their own liability insurance and workman’s compensation. Otherwise, as the homeowner you then become responsible.

You’ll also have to sign an agreement with your building that says your renovations will be done appropriately to code without damaging the building.

If there’s an issue caused by your contractor, you’ll need coverage from your homeowner’s policy. You might need to temporarily use insurance that more thoroughly covers renovations during the time work is being done.

As you can see, it’s definitely a big undertaking to do a renovation in New York City, but not altogether impossible with planning and management of your expectations.