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NestApple's Real Estate Blog

Featuring real estate articles and information to help real estate buyers and sellers. The Nest features writings from Georges Benoliel and other real estate professionals. Georges is the Co-Founder of NestApple and has been working as an active real estate investor for over a decade.

Can I get around the “Wet Over Dry Rule” in NYC?

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The wet-over-dry rule in NYC prevents apartment owners from putting wet spaces (bathrooms & kitchens) over dry areas such as living rooms onWet Over Dry Rule in NYC floors below. The rule prevents water damage and mitigates risks when leaks do occur. The wet over dry rule in NYC is not a law nor a code or regulation. However, it is just a rule that most is condo and co-op follow and respect in their alteration agreements. We’ll go other the reasoning and explore ways to seek an exception to the rule.

Most renovations can be executed with board approval, but when it comes to moving the plumbing, you need to find creative ways to get the green light. Once you start changing the pipe, and it becomes unique and specific to each apartment, it becomes challenging to determine where underlying issues might be. Combining two apartments is popular in New York. However, one of the reasons these projects can end up with funky footprints is because of rules like wet over dry. You can get around the board’s wet-over-dry rules by expanding the kitchen and putting the dishwasher within the footprint of the old bathroom.  

Is the wet over dry rule a regulation or law?

Neither. This rule is not a law nor s city regulation. The wet over dry rule in NYC is a rule mostwet over dry in nyc condo and co-op buildings’ follow. They diligently respect that rule in their alteration agreements. This rule prohibits putting wet spaces over dry areas on the floors below. In other words, homeowners renovating their apartments are not allowed to change their layout in such as way that areas that require plumbing will be directly over dry areas that don’t use the pipe on the floors below. You can’t have your bathroom to be directly over your neighbor’s living room. This reduces the risk of damage in case of a leak.
The majority of buildings in NYC do have a wet over dry rule in place. However, If your building allows it, it’s legal to build a wet space over a dry area. You should always browse your building’s alteration agreement to confirm whether they approve it or not. For example, some buildings might have an exemption if the dry space is not habitable such as closets or hallway.

Where does the wet over dry rule come from?

Architect Elliot Glass was the first one to come up with the wet over dry rule. Adding-A-Bathroom-NYCHe became known for being stricter than NYC’s Department of Buildings, and the rules he once instituted in New York are now almost universally seen and followed in alteration agreements.  
 

Why do management companies enforce the wet over dry rule?

The boards of Co-op and condo require owners to follow the wet over dry rule to minimize the risks of water damage. This also reduces therenovating in nyc cost of water damage to floors below if ta leak occurs. As a result, in most buildings in New York, all the apartment lines will have the same floorplan. For example, 9A will have the same layout as 10A and so on. Management companies enforce this wet over dry rule through the alteration agreement. This is a document that owners and contractors sign before starting any work on their unit.
From an insurance point standpoint, it is sometimes hard to prove which party is liable for water damage. Insurance companies might not fully cover costs for either the building or individual apartment owners.

Less risk in wet over wet buildings

Apartments of the same line are frequently built on top of each other in identical layouts. This helps each building lines on top of each other. As a consequence, water leaks will generate less damage if it spills over a wet zone.
Indeed, most bathrooms will be tiled areas with drainage and will be more water-resistant than a living room with hard floors.

Can an apartment buyer get approved for an exception to the wet-over-dry rule before purchasing?

No. A buyer should not sign a contract assuming that the Board will pre-approve the renovation plans. This has nothing to do with the alteration agreement in nycwet-over-dry rule. Co-op and condo board members volunteer their time for the benefit of the current owners, not to make prospective buyers happy.
It is too risky to ask a co-op board for such an exception. Indeed coop boards have the right to approve any potential buyers. In other words, Coop. Board can reject any purchaser for any reason. Coop boards do not have to disclose the reason for their choice. And in fact, they and never disclose it for liability reasons.
A co-op board interview tests a buyer’s qualifications. It’s also the opportunity to ask all the uncomfortable questions. If the co-op board thinks a given buyer is a troublemaker, the Board may just reject that buyer. Therefore, a purchaser should not ask the Board for any favors or exceptions when the Board has not even decided if they want that purchaser in.

How to convince a Coop. board to grant an exception regarding the Wet over dry rule

Most management companies advise boards that authorizing wet-over-dry construction is an unnecessary risk. But some boards decide, nonetheless, that it’s a risk worth taking with the proper mitigants. Some management company advisory boards to include a policy in the alteration agreement that should be reviewed and updated annually.

1) Demonstrate strong waterproofing measures

Boards and Management companies are hesitant to approve exceptions to the wet-over-dry rule. However, they sometimes grant special approvals if the renovationWet Over Dry Rule in NYC includes reliable waterproofing measures and flood alarms. An example is a cement-based flooring in all shower and bathtub areas such as Wonderboard. We also recommend treated paper behind walls and titles. This prevents moisture from entering walls and floors. We also recommend installing a dishpan to catch water from any potential leaks, just in case.

2) Expand the wet area rather than move it

Another suggestion is to ask a Board to expand a wet area vs. moving it to a different location. For example, a Board could be flexible in developing a bathroom by transforming a nearby closet into a shower. Or a Board could approve installing a washer dryer in a cabinet nearby to the kitchen or bathroom.

2) Make sure you insure the building (Coop. or condo) on the policy

Boards will be more flexible approving an exception to the rule if you add the very building on your insurance policy. Indeed, the Board does not want to be in the middle of insurance claims or a lawsuit between neighbors. Some insurance companies won’t allow you to name your co-op or condo as an insured party. Lastly, some Boards won’t want to deal with it altogether, even if you can provide all those mitigants!


Georges Benoliel Founder of NestApple - NestApple NYC cashback rebate

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