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Am I getting scammed?

JuliaGreenEyes

My father purchased a building about 10 years ago. At that time He hired a contractor to do some construction repair work before he moved in. It seems like everything went well and here was no issue with it. 

A few days ago he received a letter from an engineering firm with the following text:

"Please be advised that we are unable to receive the final "sign off" certification of completion as per directive 14/75, nor are we able to comply with New York City DOB regulations until the following requirements are complied with"

1) file to reinstate job with DOB $750

2) amendment to be approved $500

3) submit technical reports $2,900

4) plumbing inspection- to be completed by others

5) Obtain certificate of completion $1000

total due $5150


I have no idea what this is about, the letter is in my father's name, he is elderly but does not recall ever dealing with this firm. He has no records from the initial work on hand 8 years later (thought about reaching out to the contractor but no records of that either).

some googling led me to the DOB website where I found a stop work order from 2012 on the property that is a construction violation with no other information included. Not sure what that means but it was in red so Im assuming its important. 

Is this a scam? are they trying to extort an old man? is this related to the stop work order? 

Any insight would be much appreciated. 

Thanks y'all 

J

 
Jan 23, 21 5:23 pm
archinine
If it is legit, 8 years is a long time to let this sit. Just randomly asking for money without any prior contact for nearly a decade sounds bogus

Is the engineering firm listed under job filings from the same time? What type of engineer? Engineering permits are often filed separately by trade, depending on size of job. Is this residential or commercial? Check the DOB Now and the DOB BIS for records. Search by address, then check all filings around that time.
Jan 23, 21 5:35 pm  · 
1  · 
b3tadine[sutures]

if your father did not sign a contract with them, he's not liable. i'd send this to your state attorney general.

Jan 23, 21 6:22 pm  · 
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What they said, but maybe also contact DOB first. Kind of sounds like someone trying to drum up business by data scraping violations. 

Jan 23, 21 9:40 pm  · 
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I've found that if one feels like they need to ask this question, the answer is typically yes.

Jan 23, 21 10:41 pm  · 
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atelier nobody

If there was as building permit that never got properly closed out, that's a problem you need to deal with. It may cost you some money to get it cleared up with the building department.

You need to go back and find copies of whatever contract(s) your father had when the work was done - it was probably their responsibility to get the permit signed off, so the cost of fixing it now should really be their problem, but you might have to sue them to get it.

It is possible this engineer who contacted you can expedite the process and might be the least expensive option for you, but it is also possible they're trying to scam you - you should do your own due diligence with the building department before making any decisions..

Jan 24, 21 12:47 am  · 
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spiketwig

I can directly confirm through personal experience that this is totally a thing with the NYC DOB. It's (probably) not a scam - try to contact the DOB directly to verify. I've experienced this twice. Once ten years after a project was finished, turned out sign offs were never completed and it was going to cost like $10k to get it done. Another project we've been trying to close out for over two years and keep getting the runaround, and similarly it requires thousands in fees to file some paperwork. Cost of doing business in NYC I guess.. 

Jan 25, 21 7:40 pm  · 
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jcarch

I'm an architect in NYC, have been for 25 years.  There are thousands of building's with open stop work orders or violations.  It's extremely unlikely (but not impossible) that this will never be an issue until your dad goes to sell the building, DOB just doesn't have the staff to deal with all of these violations.  So unless you hear directly from the DOB, this can be ignored, and dealt with when the property changes hands.  Either you can take care of it then (hiring an architect or engineer to assist), or you could agree w/ the buyer to reduce the sale price, or put $ in escrow, and let them deal with it.  So why did your dad get this letter/invoice?  For the last several years, all the data in DOB's system is public and accessible.  I can spend 5 minutes online filtering that data to show building's with open violations, and the name and address of the owners.  And I could then send everyone a letter, phrased to look like an invoice, saying you have to fix this or else.  But they're just trolling for work.  And i don't know that I'd trust someone who tries to find work that way to actually do a good/thorough job clearing the violations/SWO.  It's also possible, depending on what work your dad had done, whether it was filed, etc. that clearing the SWO could be more involved than just pushing paperwork.  If he had work done that doesn't meet code, that work would have to be corrected, etc, so if you proceed with fixing this now, make sure you work with someone who can give you a clear idea of what you're likely in for.

Jan 26, 21 9:56 am  · 
2  · 
PaulKersey

Julia - Peter, long time NYC recovering architect here - it often happens that work is done and not filed for properly, or at all, with the NYC DOB. It's definitely a little suspect that a firm is asking for this to be done so many years later, but those numbers are not unusual for this type of NYC DOB work. Directive 14 is a job filed by a licensed engineer or architect for "expedited filing" - that is minimal review and supposedly done quicker than a normal filing. 

I'd suggest hiring an NYC architect to check on this - in the DOB BIS you can check to see if a job was filed, it's status, etc. and from there figure out what may need to be done in the eye of the NYC DOB - which can be opening a can of worms.



Jan 27, 21 1:36 pm  · 
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