SRO Conversion(Last Updated On: June 25, 2017)
New York City has many SROs. Property owners are constantly looking to convert their SROs to standard multifamily residential apartments. In this article we will be reviewing some of the basics of SROs and the process for conversion.
SRO = Single Room Occupancy
What is an SRO?
SRO stands for single room occupancy. This is where a person rents and individual room within a multifamily building and there is typically 1 shared bathroom per floor and a shared kitchen or each room may have a small kitchenette. In NYC SROs are classified as “Class B” Multiple Dwellings.
A “Class A” Multiple dwelling unit is a full apartment with living space, a kitchen, and a full bathroom all located within the apartment for private use by one occupant or one family.
Full apartment = Class A
SRO (single room occupancy) = Class B
Legal VS Illegal SRO Units
Before we can discuss converting SROs we need to know their status. I would say there are 2 types of SRO apartments: Legal and Illegal SRO units. A legal SRO would be one that is registered with HPD and may (or may not) have a Certificate Of Occupancy. If the legal SRO building has a certificate off occupancy then the conditions should reflect accurately on the C of O. This means the C of O would show class B apartments and the correct unit count and this would all match HPD records as “Class B” apartments.
An Illegal SRO is a building that is listed as “Class A” on the certificate of occupancy or on HPD records but is being used as class B. There are many buildings all over New York City where the owners illegally converted “Class A” apartments to SROs. These may have violations for illegal conversion to SRO if discovered by a buildings inspector.
SRO Conversion Back To Class A units
First lets discuss the process for correcting illegal SROs. We have had clients who bought small buildings in Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Lower East Side with Illegal SROs. These may or may not have violations for the illegal SRO units. Converting back to a legal Class A apartment is not that difficult (relatively speaking). This can often be filed with the DOB as an “Alteration Type 2” assuming the end use matches the existing Certificate Of Occupancy. For a more in depth look on how to file read this post we wrote on the Difference Between Alt 1 and Alt 2 Filings in NYC. If you have violations these will need to be cleared up upon completion.
You will need to make the apartments legal as per building code and multiple dwelling law regulations. This may involve removing walls, doors, kitchenettes, adding bathrooms etc…
Converting an SRO to multi-family residential apartments.
Class B Units to Class A Units.
If you have legal SROs the process is a bit more involved. Converting SROs that are listed with HPD or on the certificate of occupancy will require an Alt 1 filing with DOB. They will also require a “Certificate Of No Harassment” this is filed with HPD. In order to get approval on your Alt 1 with DOB you will need to present them with the Certificate Of No Harassment and an HPD1 form. The HPD1 is the “Anti Harassment Checklist” this is filled with DOB attached to the “Certificate Of No Harassment”
When filing these jobs there will be a great deal of work on the building. These are usually gut renovations. You will need to make the apartments legal as per building code and multiple dwelling law regulations. This may involve removing walls, doors, kitchenettes, adding bathrooms, new kitchens, new walls, etc… You will also be required to add fire sprinklers if there are none. Depending on the building size a fire alarm may also be required.
As mentioned already this is usually a gut renovation. We typically would do all new Heating and AC work. The building may get re wired with new lighting, outlets, and electrical panels. New meters may be required. There will be significant rebuilding of interior walls, kitchens, bathrooms, and maybe even stairs. The building will need the appropriate fire ratings and unless it is a Landmark it will need to comply with the Energy Conservation Code.
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Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.