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. Specifically converting a building with Class B rooming units to Class A apartments.
SRO = Single Room Occupancy
What is an SRO?
SRO stands for single room occupancy. The term has a broad definition but the most common use is for rooming units. In a rooming unit or furnished room unit a person rents and individual room within a multifamily building. There is typically 1 shared bathroom per floor and a shared kitchen or each room may have a small kitchenette. In NYC SROs of this type are typically classified as “Class B” Multiple Dwellings. There are examples where you can have a Single Room Occupancy in a Class A dwelling but we are not discussing that. We are looking at Class B rooms or rooming units.
A “Class A” Multiple dwelling unit for is meant for permanent residences. This 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.
A “Class B” Multiple dwelling is meant for temporary occupancy. There are many types of units that would qualify. For the purpose of this article we are only focusing on residential units that are commonly listed as “rooming units” or simply “rooms” on a certificate of occupancy. When people say SRO this is usually what they are referring to.
Full apartment = Class A
SRO (single room occupancy) = Class B
A Class A apartment can also be an SRO if it is used as an SRO, but all Class B multiple dwellings are SROs. We are focusing on Class B residential units in multi family buildings. We recognize the term SRO has a broader meaning but this article is focusing on one room units with a shared bathroom outside of the individual units what people normally call SROs.
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. We file an Alt 1 with the NYC DOB to Convert Class B SROs to Class A apartments. You will also get a “Certificate Of No Harassment”. HPD issues a Certificate Of No Harassment. 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”. As the project architect I file this 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. 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.
Single Room Occupancy NYC
In this article we reviewed a few of the issues with regards to Converting a Single Room Occupancy in NYC. This article does not assume to cover all conditions, but rather provide a general overview.
Thank You for reading our blog post on Converting an SRO to Multifamily.
I hope this was helpful. If you are interested in discussing a specific project you can contact us directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.