Comptroller Audit Finds NYCHA Wasted Millions on Roof Repairs, Putting Residents’ Health at Risk

Image Credit: Comptroller Scott M. Stringer’s Office.

NYCHA wasted $3.7 million by replacing eight roofs while they were under warranty. On July 26, 2019, the Office of the Comptroller announced the results of its audit of the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) roof maintenance. According to New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, NYCHA wasted millions on roof repairs that should have come at no expense to taxpayers and failed to perform basic oversight and preventive maintenance of roofs, putting the health and safety of thousands of NYCHA residents at risk.

The audit report concluded that NYCHA failed to implement a program of preventive maintenance and roof-repair by qualified professionals because of inefficiency at multiple levels of the organization, outdated procedures, broad noncompliance, poor record-keeping, and inattention to roof-warranty administration and enforcement.

This audit came on the heels of a 2017 audit during which auditors observed conditions of ponding, standing water, and poor drainage on several newly installed roofs that could jeopardize the integrity of roof systems.

In advance of the 2019 audit report, auditors inspected 35 roofs in 13 different NYCHA developments throughout the five boroughs. All of the inspected roofs had been installed since 2000 and were covered by a 20-year warranty. Auditors found conditions such as roof sag, pooling water, open seams, and damaged masonry on 88 percent of the inspected roofs. Faulty and damaged roofs are a breeding ground for mold and mildew contamination, therefore exacerbating health concerns for NYCHA residents.

The report uncovered that eight roofs in NYCHA’s South Beach development on Staten Island were replaced ten years earlier than their 20-year warranted life. This replacement cost NYCHA an investment loss of $367,000. NYCHA made no effort to invoke the warranty coverage, even though those eight roofs were covered by warranties for another ten years. Instead, NYCHA spent nearly $3.7 million in unnecessary public funds to replace them.

In addition, the report found that NYCHA used its roof-warranty coverage in only 1.3 percent of the roof repairs. NYCHA used public funds in 700 instances instead of invoking its warranties. The report found that NYCHA failed to ensure that the repair work was done in accordance with warranty terms by appropriately trained workers.

NYCHA’s own inspections failed to uncover any of the findings made by the auditors. The Comptroller’s Office attributes this failure to the old, obsolete rules and 30-year old procedures by which NYCHA still abides. NYCHA failed to report and address deficient conditions that can leave roofs susceptible to water intrusion and moisture under the roof membrane. In particular, the audit found ponding and other water penetration, blisters and soft or spongey surfaces, and trash and vegetation across inspected roofs.

Many residential buildings owned by NYCHA are more than 30 years old. Due to the age of some buildings, roof replacements require substantial investments: Between 2000 and 2010, NYCHA spent approximately $452 million to replace 715 roofs. About $632,000 per roof.

However, each roof replacement comes with a 20-year “no-dollar limit” warranty with the purpose of mitigating repair costs. The Comptroller’s Office attributes NYCHA’s failure to mitigate repair costs to NYCHA’s lack of consistent inspections, appropriate maintenance, and notifications to the private roof companies can void those guarantees.

The audit uncovered administrative conditions attributed to maintenance deficiencies, for example:

1) Over a quarter of requested monthly inspection reports were missing, and reports that NYCHA provided were inaccurate;

2) NYCHA’s inspection reports rarely noted or detailed unsatisfactory conditions and never recorded follow-up tasks where they were supposed to;

3) Only two reports noted any deficiencies at all and still omitted damage such as roof sag and structural masonry damage observed by Comptroller’s auditors; and

4) The Comptroller’s office estimates that $24.6 million in roof-investment is currently at risk based on NYCHA’s reported costs and the total square footage of the 19 roofs with significant to moderate roof damage.

Further, NYCHA failed to maintain proper roof records at 13 inspected developments. Ten of the 13 developments had no copy of the roof warranty. None of the 13 developments had a full set of the roof-related records NYCHA needs to meet warranty requirements. Additionally, NYCHA had no record in its Maximo system or at its developments to show that any of the roof manufacturers were notified of any deficiencies on the roofs.

Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has issued five overhaul recommendations to update NYCHA’s internal rules for roof maintenance:

1) Perform adequate, timely inspections, preventive maintenance, and repairs by appropriate personnel to ensure that its roofs are protected by the manufacturer’s warranty coverage and can be kept in service throughout their expected useful life.

2) Investigate prolonged ponding conditions auditors observed on 14 building roofs to determine long-term damage.

3) Develop a comprehensive policy and procedures manual covering roof inspection, maintenance, repairs, and the preservation and use of warranty coverage.

4) Update and modernize standard procures that touch upon roof inspection, maintenance, repair, and warranty administration to reflect the organization’s current operational structure and processes.

5) Use NYCHA’s IT systems to properly record, administer, and enforce its roof warranties and associated work.

Comptroller Scott M. Stringer stated, “What a mess. For decades, NYCHA residents have endured leaky ceilings, mold and mildew, and our new audit sheds light on how NYCHA is failing to prevent it. We uncovered that NYCHA’s systemic failure to keep its house in order starts at the top – the roofs that should be keeping residents dry are filled with holes, just like NYCHA’s excuses. NYCHA’s dysfunction risks the health of the residents and costs New York taxpayers millions – yet NYCHA makes no effort to hold private firms accountable to the guarantees we paid for. The hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who call NYCHA home depend on the agency to do the most basic of tasks and to competently maintain their buildings, but this audit shows that NYCHA isn’t even trying. These are opportunities missed and dollars down the drain. This pattern of ineptitude must end.”



By: Laine Vitkevich (Laine is a CityLaw Intern and New York Law School student, Class of 2020).



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