Buildings & Regulatory Compliance FAQs

Buildings and Regulatory Compliance FAQs

What does the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance do?

The Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance’s mission is to ensure that buildings and other structures in the City of Albany are safely and responsibly built and maintained by enforcing and educating city residents about the New York Uniform Building & Fire Code and the City of Albany Code.


How does the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance work?

The Department has two primary functions: overseeing new construction and ensuring property is maintained in compliance with the NYS Building Code and the City of Albany Code. 

To oversee new construction we have our Building Inspectors, professionals certified by the State of New York for their knowledge and expertise with respect to the New York Uniform Building & Fire Code. They review building and other permits and oversee construction to ensure that new buildings are constructed and existing buildings are repaired and renovated safely and properly. 

To ensure buildings are maintained in compliance with the law we have our code enforcement officers who are similarly certified as code enforcement officers by the State of New York. Our code enforcement officers respond to complaints and actively monitor our neighborhoods to ensure that ongoing compliance with the New York Uniform Building & Fire Code and the City of Albany Code by property owners on an ongoing basis. 

Finally, we have our clerks and front office staff whose job it is to assist city residents and developers access out services by answering questions and coordinating the activities of our code enforcement officers and building inspectors.


What is the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance’s hours and contact information?

We are open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and our offices are located at 200 Henry Johnson Blvd. Our phone number is (518) 434-5995 or we may be reached by email at


What is the New York Uniform Building & Fire Code?

The New York Uniform Building & Fire Code are a set of construction and maintenance regulations which are compiled by the State Fire Prevention & Building Code Council, a panel appointed the NYS Governor with the advice and consent of the New York State Senate through the NYS Secretary of State. The Code Council, as it is known, includes experts in the area of building safety and fire prevention from across the State. 

The NYS Uniform Building & Fire Code sets the minimum safety requirements for construction and building maintenance. According the New York State law, municipalities such as Albany must enforce this code.


Once the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance inspects a building does that mean the building is safe?

No. An inspection done by a code enforcement officer or building inspector can only ensure that the time of the inspection whatever part of the building was being inspected appeared to have been in compliance with the relevant code at the time of the inspection. We cannot guarantee that the condition of a building will not deteriorate after that inspection, that areas of the building we may not have inspected are in compliance, or that we are perfect and able to identify all code violations at a property at the time of inspection, particularly when they may have been intentionally hidden. Additionally, the NYS Uniform Building & Fire Code provides only the minimum level of safety for buildings and the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance is only empowered to enforce that minimum level of safety. For both these reasons, you should never rely on the fact that a building has passed inspection to assume that a building is safe.


What is the Albany City Code?

The Albany City Code is a set of laws established by the Common Council and approved by the Mayor. The Albany City Code governs a number of things. As far as the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance is concerned, it includes zoning regulations and various property maintenance regulations which this department is charged with enforcing.


When do I need to get a permit?

According to New York State Law, permits are required whenever work “must conform to the Uniform Code.” Additionally, the Albany City Code requires permits for work which does not need to conform to the Uniform Code. For this reason, it is unfortunately impossible proscribe a single, simple rule of thumb to say when a permit is required. Below is a detailed description of what types of permits are required and when.

Please note that we encourage you to call our office at (518) 434-5995 with questions regarding permits and that if you submit a permit for work which does not require a permit, we will gladly refund your permit application fee. 

1. Building Permits: A building permit must be obtained for any work on a property which in anyway involves the property’s health and safety structure. This includes:

a. The erection of any new structure, temporary or permanent, including sheds, fences, pools (even temporary pools), porches, stairways, radio towers, & tree houses. This does not include playgrounds associated with one or two family dwellings. It also does not include the erection of retaining walls, though a permit for those is often required by the City Engineer. 

b. Any alteration or repair of load bearing structural supports. 

c. Any alteration to the size, location, or accessibility of any ingress or egress points, corridors, or discharge areas. 

d. Any alternation to fire barriers or firewalls, including drilling through such barriers and walls.

e. An increase or decrease in structure height or area.

f. Any increase or decrease in building frontage. 

g. The installation of textile, vinyl, or foam plastic wall and/or ceiling coverings in all areas of public assembly. 

h. The installation of elevators.

i. The demolition of existing structures.

j. Storing, dispensing, processing, or manufacturing hazardous materials.

k. Installation of a wood stove or gas insert.

l. Installation of awnings or marquis.

m. Any change to the nature or intensity of the use of any portion of a property. This includes situations where a new business is replacing an old business of the same type and where the way the property is being used is being completely changed (ie. changing from an apartment to an office, changing from a clothing store to a nightclub).

2. Mechanical Permits (electric, plumbing, etc.): A permit is required for all work to mechanical systems on the property, including installation or changes to electrical, plumbing, heating, fire suppression systems, fire alarms, elevators, or other mechanical systems. This does not include the replacement or repair of fewer than three fixtures within a two month time period if this repair or replacement does not require new plumbing or wiring.

Note that such work may only be performed by a plumber or electrician licensed to work in the City of Albany and that we may only accept permits for such work from a licensed plumber or electrician.

3. Certificate of Appropriateness/Building Permit: A permit is required for any change in appearance for any structure in an historic or traditional overlay district which is visible from the street. To determine if your property is in an historic or traditional overlay district, please consult the listings available on the City of Albany website:

4. Sidewalk & Barricade Permit: Work which will abut or obstruct a sidewalk or street. This is the permit you need to have a dumpster placed on the street outside a property. 

5. Sign Permit: A permit is required before any sign may be erected subject to the following exceptions: i) historical markers, tablets, & statues, ii) flags of any nation, government or school, iii) on-premises directional signs, iv) non-illuminated private drive, & no-trespassing signs less than 2 square feet, v) one sign on a property indicating a home occupation set back 10 feet from a right-of-way, vi) temporary “for sale”, “for rent” real estate signs, vii) temporary window signs not covering more than 25% of the window surface, viii) signs at gasoline stations regarding gasoline prices, ix) contractor’s signs at a property while work is being done by that contractor at that property, and x) political posters of less than 5 square feet in residential and 16 square feet in business districts which are up for less than 60 days. For a detailed explanation of these exemptions see Albany City Code § 307-6 ( 


When don’t I need to apply for a permit?

A permit is not required in the following instances: 
  1. Repairs: Unless the work involves anything that would require a permit, a person does not need to apply for a permit to restore a structure to its original condition.
  2. Construction of Retaining Walls: We do not need a permit for the construction of retaining walls, though a permit will likely be required from the Engineering Department.
  3. Installation of Cubicle Walls: We do not require a permit for the installation of partitions of less than 5’-9”.  
  4. Finish Work: Except for exterior work in historic districts, we do not need a permit for painting, tiling, carpeting, etc. 
  5. Portable Appliances: We do not require a permit to install temporary portable heating, cooling, plumbing, ventilation, or cooling equipment.
  6. Equipment Replacement: Equipment Replacement: We do not require a permit for the simple replacement of existing equipment so long as the replacement equipment is consistent with the original equipment’s specifications and the equipment itself does not involve combustion or the ventilation of hazardous gases or materials.


What happens if I do work without a permit?

Work which requires a permit which is done without a permit is subject to a stop work order (even after the project is completed) and an accompanying $300 fine. A permit will then have to be obtained to ensure that the building is in compliance with the New York State Uniform Building & Fire Code and the Albany City Code. 

Additionally, noncompliant work can result in serious health and safety problems. It may create serious fire hazards or even undermine the structure of a building and putting it at risk of collapse. The decision to avoid applying for a permit may have tragic consequences which may not manifest themselves for several years. Indeed, the reason permits are required is to ensure that structures and buildings in our City are constructed and maintained safely and responsibly. 

Unpermitted work can have serious financial consequences as well. Property buyers are wary of noncompliant work and so it can significantly reduce your property value. Noncompliant work may be grounds for the denial of a claim against your homeowner’s insurance. 

For all these reasons we encourage you to call our office at (518) 434-5995 with questions regarding permits. If you submit a permit for work which does not require a permit, we will gladly refund your permit application fee. For work around your home, the fees are small and well worth the peace of mind. 


How can I pay for permit application fees?

The Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance accepts payment by Visa, Mastercard, Discover, check, or money order. We cannot, unfortunately, accept cash. If you would like to pay in cash, you may obtain an invoice from us which can then be paid to the Treasurer’s Office. Once we have the receipt for that payment, we can begin processing your application.


What do I need to include with my permit?

Our forms will direct you as to what information we will need to approve your project and our building inspectors will work with you during the plan review process to ensure your application is complete. If you are unsure about what you will need to include with your permit, we encourage you to call our office at (518) 434-5995 to talk to our clerks about what is needed.


How do I obtain a residential occupancy permit?

According to City Code ( landlords must obtain a residential occupancy permit and register each of their rental dwelling units on the City of Albany Rental Dwelling Registry every thirty months for each of the units they are renting. In order to obtain a residential occupancy permit, the unit must pass an inspection by one of our Code Enforcement Officers. The cost of the inspection and registration is $50 per unit for the first two inspections (if two are needed) and $30 per inspection thereafter. Dwellings with only one rental unit which are owned and occupied by individuals more than 65 years of age are exempt from the fee per Albany City Code § 231-144.

In order to pass an inspection, the rental dwelling unit must be in compliance with the NYS Uniform Building Code and the Code of the City of Albany. Both of these are available online. Here is a link to the handbook containing the codes most commonly referred to by our officers when making inspections ( While the handbook itself is old, the applicable rule have not changed substantially and so this will give an idea as to what will need to be repaired or added to your rental unit prior to an ROP inspection. However, we know that catching everything is difficult which is why we include a follow up inspection as part of the initial $50 fee. 


What happens when a tenant complains to the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance about a code violation in their apartment?

Anyone with access to a unit may allow one of our code enforcement officers into a property so that our officers can observe alleged code violations. We do not notify landlords before the inspection however, if violations are found, the building owner will be notified of what the violations are and they will be given an opportunity to remedy the violation within a certain period of time, usually 30 days except in cases where the violations are a threat to the health or safety of the tenant. 

Our officers do not and cannot take sides in disputes between a landlord and a tenant. 


What happens if my apartment is infested with bedbugs?

An infestation of bedbugs or other insects or animals is a violation of code. If you believe your apartment is infested, call our office at 434-5995 to schedule an inspection. One of our code enforcement officers will investigate and if he or she concludes that there is an infestation, we will issue a citation in order to compel those responsible to properly fix the problem. 

For bed bugs and other insects, we require that a licensed exterminator be hired to treat the effected property before agreeing to withdraw the citation. 

If the responsible party refuses to properly fix a bedbug infestation the Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance does not have the authority to compel the responsible party to take action. What we have the authority to do is to refer an open citation to court where a fine may be imposed for noncompliance. 


What happens if I disagree with a citation issued by a code enforcement officer?

You should first speak with the code enforcement officer who issued the citation. Our code enforcement officers do their best to work with property owners in bringing their property into compliance with the NYS Uniform Building Code & the Albany City Code. In some cases, this may mean avoiding the issuance of a citation at all in favor of educating property owners as to their obligations under the law. 

If discussing the matter with the code enforcement officer is not satisfactory, the next step will be to make your case in court that the alleged violation is not in fact a violation. If a citation is issued and not remedied, our next step is to present the matter to the City of Albany Corporation Counsel’s office and the Albany City Court for review before a fine is imposed. You will be notified of when we do that and will have an opportunity to be heard before an impartial judge or work out a resolution with Corporation Counsel.


What qualifies as a “Vacant Building” that must be registered?

A vacant building is a building that is not being legally used or occupied by rightful owners or with the explicit permission of the rightful owners. According to Albany City Code § 133-78.3 such a building must be registered if it is not secured by normal means or has been in violation of the NYS Uniform Building & Fire Code at any time in the preceding year.


When must a building be registered?

A building must be registered vacant with the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance not later than 30 days after becoming vacant or after the purchase of a vacant building.  The building must be re-registered each year that it remains vacant, and contact information must be updated as soon as a change occurs.


How do I register my vacant building?

Owners may obtain a Vacant Building Registration Form online or in the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance office.  Upon request, the Department may also provide you a form by mail, by email or by fax.  The form must be filled out completely and submitted along with color photos of the building, a copy of the driver’s license(s) of the owner(s) and agent(s), the appropriate fee, the required bond, and any other necessary attachments as indicated on the form.  

Though the Departments registration form asks for all the information required by Albany City Code § 133-78.3 ( it is worth your while to refer to the language of that code as you begin putting your registration form together.

You may register your building through the mail; however, owners who do not reside in the area must designate a local agent that will be responsible for the maintenance of the property, as well as an emergency contact. 


Are there any fees involved with registering my vacant building?

Yes.  An annual registration fee must be paid to the City of Albany.  This fee must be submitted to the Division of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance along with a completed registration form.  Registration fees are set out in Albany City Code §133-78.3(l)(2) and are based on the number of years the building has been vacant building.  Fees are as follows:
  • $250.00 for the first year;
  • $500.00 for the second year;
  • $1,000.00 for the third year;
  • $1,500.00 for the fourth year;
  • $2,000.00 for the fifth year and every year following.


What is the “maximum lot coverage” and how does it apply to my project?

The City’s Zoning code sets out what percentage of a lot may be covered by structures. These limits are imposed by the zoning codes in order to maintain the character of certain neighborhoods and prevent overcrowding and congestion.

Maximum lot coverage differs from one zoning district to the next so you will need to know the Zoning District of the property. Here’s a link to the City of Albany Zoning map ( and here’s a link to the City Code setting out what is allowed in each district ( 

The maximum lot coverage is the percentage of ground area on a lot which may be covered by structures. This does not include paved areas or fences but does include every other structure, including the principal home as well ass garages, decks, pools, and sheds. 

To calculate your lot coverage you will need the following measurements:
  • Dimensions of your lot (depth & width);
  • Footprint measurements of any structures currently on your lot; and
  • Footprint measurement of any proposed structures.
All measurements should be calculated and totaled to see if you are underneath the maximum lot coverage for your zoning district.


What if I think a building in the City is dangerous and needs to be demolished?

The Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance has the authority to arrange for the demolition of properties that pose an imminent threat to the health and safety according to Albany City Code §133-55 ( If you feel a building meets this standard, we will send a code enforcement officer immediately to evaluate it. If the code enforcement officer determines that the building is an imminent threat, she or he will arrange for a third party inspection through an on-call engineer who will also arrive immediately to evaluate the building. If the third party engineer determines that an emergency demolition is necessary, the building will be demolished. 

In rare situations where a building is of unique historic value or is providing critical structural support to adjoining buildings we may conduct emergency stabilization repairs. This is avoided because it is more expensive and dangerous, and is often only forestalling for a few years a full demolition of a neglected property. 


Why is the Waste Collection Fee being charged on only residential properties of less than four units?

Unfortunately the cost of trash collection is becoming more and more expensive particularly with the impending closure of the City’s landfill and this fee, coupled with several cost-saving measures undertaken by the City, is meant to offset those costs.  

Properties with more than four units and commercial properties are already required to provide for their own trash pick-up, which is why they have been left out of the program.

For more information please click here.


How do sign permits work?

A sign permit is reviewed by the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance to ensure that it is safely installed. It is reviewed by the Department of Planning to ensure that it complies with the City Code’s regulations with respect to the proposed sign’s appearance. For signs to be installed in historic districts, review by the Historic Resources Commission will also have to be conducted to ensure that the sign is appropriate.


What is a “sign”?

Albany City Code §307-4 and § 307-5 has a complicated definition of “sign” which is best be summed up as “any announcement, declaration, demonstration, display, illustration or insignia used to advertise or promote the interests of any person or business when the same is placed in view of the general public” not including “signs erected and maintained pursuant to and in furtherance of any governmental function or required by any law, ordinance, rule or regulation.”

Murals and other artwork visible to the public are not signs unless they meet the above definition of the “sign”. However, such projects may require a permit if they involve the installation of building materials, such as ceramic tile, or will alter the appearance of a building in an historic or traditional overlay district. 


When is a sign permit required?

When is a sign permit required?

A sign permit is required whenever a sign is installed in the City of Albany, subject to a number of exemptions laid out in Albany City Code §307-6. Though all signs must comply with the relevant regulations, discussed below, the following signs may be installed without a sign permit:
  1. Historical Markers. Historical markers, tablets and statues, memorial signs and plaques; names of buildings and dates of erection when cut into any masonry surface or when constructed of bronze, stainless steel or similar material; and emblems installed by governmental agencies, religious or nonprofit organizations.
  2. Public Flags. Flags and insignia of any nation, government or school except when displayed in connection with commercial promotion.
  3. On-premises directional signs for the convenience of the general public, identifying public parking areas, fire zones, entrances and exits and similar signs, internally illuminated and nonilluminated, not to exceed four square feet per face and six feet in height. Business names and personal names shall be allowed, not to include advertising messages.
  4. Non-illuminated warning, private drive, posted or no-trespassing signs, not to exceed two square feet per face.
  5. Home Occupation Signs. One on-premises sign, either freestanding or attached, in connection with any residential building in a zone district which permits professional offices or home occupations, not to exceed two square feet and set back at least 10 feet from the highway right-of-way. Such sign shall state name and vocation only. Illumination shall not produce a direct glare beyond the limits of the property line.
  6. Property Identification Signs. Name and number plates, identifying residents, mounted on a house, apartment or mailbox, not exceeding one square foot in area. Lawn signs identifying residents, not to exceed one square foot in area or two square feet if double-faced. Signs are to be nonilluminated except by a light which is an integral part of a lamppost if used as a support, with no advertising message thereon.
  7. Yard Sales. Private-owned merchandise sale signs for garage sales and auctions, not to exceed four square feet, for a period not to exceed seven days.
  8. For Rent/Sale Signs. Temporary nonilluminated "for sale," "for rent," real estate signs and signs of a similar nature, concerning the premises upon which the sign is located; in a residential zoning district, one sign not to exceed four square feet per side in area; in a business or industrial zoning district, one sign not to exceed 50 square feet set back at least 15 feet from all property lines is permitted. All such signs shall be removed within three days after the sale, lease or rental of the premises.
  9. Temporary Window Signs. Temporary, nonilluminated window signs and posters, provided that such do not exceed 25% of the window surface.
  10. Seasonal Signs. Christmas and other holiday or seasonal decorations, including lighting, are exempt from the provisions of this chapter and may be displayed in any district without a permit.
  11. Gasoline Station Signs. At gasoline stations, the following signs do not require permits: a.) Integral graphics or attached price signs on gasoline pumps. b.) Two auxiliary signs per station, each not exceeding two square feet in area. c.) One portable sign per station, not exceeding 12 square feet in area and four feet in height.
  12. Temporary Directional Sign. Directional signs for meetings, conventions and other assemblies.
  13. Contractors’ Signs. One sign, not exceeding six square feet in area in residential districts or 16 square feet in office and commercial districts, listing the architect, engineer, contractor and/or owner, on premises where construction, renovation or repair is in progress.
  14. Political Signs. Political posters, banners, promotional devices and similar signs, not exceeding five square feet in area in the residential district or 16 square feet in the business districts, provided that placement shall not exceed 60 days.
It should be noted that exceptionally large or potentially dangerous signs will require a building permit.


What should be included in a sign permit application?

The Sign Permit Application is designed to capture the information the City needs to evaluate whether the proposed sign complies with the relevant City sign regulations. As required by Albany City Code § 301-15, a sign permit application must include a detailed drawing or blueprint showing: 
  1. a description of the construction details of the sign and showing the lettering and/or pictorial matter composing the sign; 
  2. the materials of which the sign will be composed;
  3. how the sign will be mounted;
  4. position of lighting and other extraneous devices; 
  5. a location plan showing the position of the sign on any building or land and its position in relation to nearby buildings or structures and to any private or public street or highway, driveway and/or sidewalk.
These drawings do not need to be certified by an engineer or architect, though the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance may require such drawings in the case of exceptionally large or potentially dangerous signs. 

Also required by Albany City Code § 301-15 is written consent of the building owner to the installation of the sign. Additionally, the address and name of the applicant is also required.

As you will see, the regulations relating to signs are complicated and so in the course of permit review, the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance or the Department of Planning may ask for additional information. 


What is the fee for a sign permit application?

The fee for a sign permit application is the greater of $25 or $1.25 per square foot per sign face.


What regulations apply to all signs?

The City Code has regulations that apply to all signs in addition to regulations which apply to different types of signs. The general regulations are as follows:
  1. “No sign or graphics shall impair or cause confusion of vehicular or pedestrian traffic, by design, color or placement. No sign shall obstruct the sight distance of the motorist at a street corner or intersection by placement and location within 25 feet of the intersection of the street or highway lines.”
  2. No advertising message may be spread over more than one sign along a street or highway. 
  3. No signage may contain any “obscene or immoral wording or depiction or contain any advertising or other matter which is untruthful.”
  4. “No sign or sign support shall be placed upon the roof of any building (except those signs of a landmark, historic or other unique nature).”
  5. “All signage shall be constructed and/or comprised of durable material and maintained in good condition and repair.”
  6. “All signage shall be securely anchored and constructed to prevent lateral movement that would cause wear on supporting connections.”


What regulations apply to different kinds of signs?

Albany City Code § 307-4 establishes several types of signs, with each type having a set of regulations unique to their type as set out at Albany City Code §307-12. Below is a list of sign types along with the regulations which are unique to them, if any. 

1. AWNING SIGN: Any visual message incorporated into an awning attached to a building.
a. No awning sign may project from an awning; and
b. Awning graphics may be painted or affixed flat to the surface of the front or sides and shall indicate only the name, insignia and/or address of the enterprise or premises.

2. COPY-CHANGE SIGN: A sign on which the visual message may be periodically changed.
a. Copy-change wall signs shall be permitted on theaters only; 
b. Copy-change signs may extend 15 inches from the face of the building to which attached; and
c. Any part of a sign extending over pedestrian traffic areas shall have a minimum clearance of seven feet six inches.

3. DIRECTIONAL SIGN: A sign limited to providing information on the location of an activity, business or event.

4. FREESTANDING SIGN: Permanently fixed signs not attached or part of any building, including pole signs, pylon signs and masonry wall-type signs.
a. Freestanding signs must be at least fifteen feet from the front property line and five feet from the side property line;
b. If for any reason the property line is changed at some future date, any freestanding sign made nonconforming thereby must be relocated within 90 days to conform to the minimum setback requirements.
c. No freestanding sign shall be more than 25 feet in height above finished grade. Such height shall be measured vertically from the established average grade directly below the sign or entry level of the building or structure, whichever is lower, to the elevation of the highest point of the sign, including supporting structures.
d. No freestanding sign shall extend over or into the public right-of-way, nor shall it overhang the property lines.
e. Freestanding signs under which a pedestrian walkway or driveway passes must have a ten-foot vertical clearance.
f. Masonry wall-type signs shall not exceed four feet in height and shall not be placed so as to interfere with driver vision or other traffic.

5. OFF-PREMISES SIGN: A sign advertising something unrelated the premises where such sign is located.
a. The maximum area for any one face of an off-premises sign is 700 square feet, inclusive of any border and trim but excluding the base or apron, supports and other structural members. Cutouts not exceeding 20% of the aforesaid maximum areas may be added to each face of an off-premises sign.
b. The maximum height for any off-premises sign, exclusive of cutouts, shall be 60 feet. All measurements are to be taken from the grade level at which the sign is located.

6. ON-PREMISES SIGN: A sign related to a business or a profession conducted or to a commodity or service sold or offered upon the premises where such sign is located.

7. PORTABLE SIGN: A sign designed to be movable and not structurally attached to the ground, a building, a structure or another sign. Includes sidewalk signs.
a. No sidewalk or portable sign may be located in a residential district.
b. No portable sign can interfere with pedestrian traffic
c. Portable signs must be removed when the business advertised in closed. 
d. Gasoline stations may only have one portable sign.

8. PROJECTING SIGN: A sign which is attached to the building wall which extends horizontally more than nine inches from the plane of such wall, or a sign which is perpendicular to the face of such wall or structure.
a. Projecting signs shall not have more than two faces;
b. The exterior edge of a projecting sign shall not extend more than five feet from the building face or 1/3 the width of the sidewalk, whichever is less.
c. No part of a projecting sign shall extend into vehicular traffic areas, and any part over pedestrian area shall have a minimum clearance of seven feet six inches.

9. TEMPORARY SIGN: A sign related to a single activity or event having a duration of no more than 30 days.

10. WALL SIGN: A sign which is painted on or attached to the outside wall of a building with the face of the sign in the plane parallel to such wall and not extending more than nine inches from the face of such wall.
a. Wall signs may not extend beyond the ends or over the top of the wall to which attached and, except when required in the discretion of the Administrator, shall not extend above the level of the second floor of the building.
b. Wall signs shall not exceed more than nine inches from the face of the building to which attached, except that copy-change signs may extend 15 inches.
c. Any part of a sign extending over pedestrian traffic areas shall have a minimum clearance of seven feet six inches.

11. WINDOW SIGN: A sign visible from a public place, painted or affixed on glass or other window material or located inside within four feet of window, but not including graphics in connection with customary window display of products.

As is discussed in detail below, additional regulations may apply to signs installed in historic or traditional overlay districts. To determine if your property is in an historic or traditional overlay district, please consult the listings available on the City of Albany website for Historic Districts or Traditional Overlay.


What regulations apply to signs in historic and traditional overlay districts?

As discussed above, signs in historic districts must receive a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Resource Commission before they may be issued by the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance. The City Code also has several regulations outlined at Albany City Code §375-45(7) which apply to signs installed in Traditional Overlay Districts. To determine if your property is in an historic or traditional overlay district, please consult the listings available on the City of Albany website: Historic or Traditional Overlay.

1. General Standards. Signs should be designed and placed so as to complement the building, neighboring signs and buildings and the overall neighborhood. Sign copy should generally be kept to the minimum needed to convey the required message. All signs should be professionally designed and fabricated, using high-quality materials.

a. Sign copy shall be limited to the name, address, function and logo of the establishment;
b. A letter style should be chosen that is easy to read and that reflects the image of the business it represents;
c. Sign colors should complement the colors of the building;
d. The design of a building often suggests one or more logical locations for signs. These locations always should be considered first when placing a sign;
e. Signs shall be placed on or by a building so as not to obscure architectural features and detail.
f. Signs shall be mounted so as to cause as little damage to the building as possible.
g. Sign design and permit approval should be obtained prior to fabrication and installation of the sign.
h. Temporary signs shall be limited to 16 square feet, contain high-quality graphics and include the date installed. They shall be removed within 30 days of the posted date, unless otherwise specified in the Sign Ordinance.

2. Specific Regulations According to Sign Type in Traditional Overlay Districts
a. Awning and canopy signs. Awning and canopy signs are visual messages incorporated into the valance of these projections.
i. Signs on awnings shall be restricted to the valance. The same generally is true for canopies, although it may be appropriate to locate letters above the top edge of some canopies.
ii. A maximum of eight-inch letters shall be provided on the valance.
iii. Copy shall be limited to the name of the establishment, the building number and possibly a small logo.
b. Freestanding signs. Freestanding signs are generally considered inappropriate for C-1 Districts.
c. Projecting signs. Projecting signs should be used to complement or replace the principal wall sign. Incorporating symbols or icons on projecting signs is encouraged to add visual interest to the street.
i. On multistory buildings, projecting signs shall be located above storefront display windows and below second-story windowsills. On one-story buildings, projecting signs shall be located above storefront display windows and below the roofline.
ii. A projecting sign shall be mounted a minimum of seven feet, six inches above the sidewalk and shall extend from the building face a maximum of five feet or 1/3 the width of the sidewalk, whichever is less.
iii. The size and location of a projecting sign shall complement neighboring signs.
iv. The design of mounting hardware (such as poles, brackets, etc.) shall be considered as part of the overall sign design. It should be structurally and stylistically appropriate to the sign and the building.
d. Wall signs.
i. Wall signs shall be located within a sign band when one exists.
ii. Where a sign band does not exist, wall signs shall be located between the top of first-floor openings and the second floor windowsills or below the roofline on a one-story building.
iii. In multiple-storefront buildings, signs of similar size, proportion and materials shall be used for each business. The color of individual signs should vary within a coordinated range.
iv. A wall sign may extend the width of the storefront but shall be a maximum of two feet, six inches high.
v. Lettering on wall signs shall be a maximum of 18 inches high and occupy about 65% of the sign.
vi. Directory signs alongside a door which list upstairs businesses shall not exceed four square feet.
e. Window signs. They should be used to provide more detailed or changeable information about the business such as the phone number, hours of operation or services offered. Window signs should complement the window display.
i. Window signs shall occupy as little as possible of the window, but no more than 25% of the window surface.
ii. Window signs should not obscure the display area.
iii. Small stenciled letters, addresses or logos should be used for window signs affixed to the glass. The color of the letters should contrast with the display background and complement the overall facade, the storefront and other signs for the business.
iv. Mounting hardware and equipment for signs hung in a window shall be concealed from view.
f. Sign lighting.
i. Individual lighting fixtures shall be selected so that the style and type of light is compatible with the sign, the building and the surroundings, and shall be positioned to provide even lighting.
ii. Lights that produce as white a light as possible are preferable, such as metal halide lights. 
iii. To minimize light pollution, a shield, baffle or cut-off optics shall be used to keep lighting from projecting upwards.
iv. Internally illuminated box signs shall be prohibited.
v. Lighting a sign with exposed outdoor sockets or bare spotlights shall be prohibited.
vi. Electrical conduits and transformers shall not be visible from the public right-of-way.


What is the purpose of the floodplain development guidelines?

The City of Albany Flood Damage Prevention Law, Albany City Code § 375-143 through § 375-172.4 are mandated by the Federal Emergency Relief Agency and are a common-sense set of standards which will improve the resiliency of our civic infrastructure, protect private investment, and improve public safety as the City of Albany adapts to a warming climate. 

The Flood Damage Prevention Law requires that people or companies developing land is designated floodplain areas obtain a floodplain development permit from the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance. This guide is meant to help developers navigate the flood plain development permit process.


How do I found out whether my project is in the floodplain?

Based on historic flood and other data, FEMA has designated certain areas of the country, including certain areas of Albany, as being on part of the national floodplain. FEMA provides a tool at where you can search for an address and see whether it is in the floodplain and therefore subject to the Flood Damage Prevention Law. Generally speaking, properties that are within a half mile of the Hudson River or adjoining tributaries, such as the Normanskill, are within in the floodplain. Feel free to contact our staff if you have any questions about whether your project is located in the floodplain.


What kind of work in the floodplain requires a floodplain development permit?

Albany City Code § 375-153 requires a floodplain development permit be issued for “all construction and other development to be undertaken” in a FEMA-designated floodplain. This includes major renovations or changes to an existing building’s infrastructure and all new construction. 


What are the floodplain construction guidelines?

The floodplain construction guidelines are set out in Albany City Code § 375-168 through § 375-172.2 ( The guidelines are complicated and specific to particular types of projects and you should examine them closely when planning floodplain development. The major requirements relate to anchoring buildings, raising mechanical equipment above the base flood level, and flood-proofing.


When do the floodplain development guidelines do not apply?

There are three circumstances in which flood plain development may not need to comply with the floodplain development guidelines.

Substantial Improvement
While Albany City Code § 375-153 requires a permit for “all construction and other development to be undertaken”, it does not require that the floodplain development guidelines be complied with unless the development is a “substantial improvement”. 

A “substantial improvement” is an improvement which costs more than 50% of the fair market value of the building prior to the beginning of the project. The code does not establish how a fair market value is to be established but evidence of a tax assessment or of the sales price of similar comparable properties will be acceptable. 

Repairs to Correct Life/Safety Related Code Violations
“Any project for improvement of a structure to correct existing violations of . . . code[s] . . .  identified by the local code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions” will not trigger an obligation to comply with the floodplain development guidelines.

Historic Structures
“Alterations” to historic structures may not be required to comply with the floodplain development guidelines. The code identifies an “historic structure” as a structure which is:
  • Listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places . . .  or preliminarily determined by the Secretary of the Interior as meeting the requirements for individual listing on the National Register;
  • Certified or preliminarily determined by the Secretary of the Interior as contributing to the historical significance of a registered historic district or a district preliminarily determined by the Secretary to qualify as a registered historic district;
  • Individually listed on a state inventory of historic places . . . ; or
  • Individually listed on a local inventory of historic places in communities with historic preservation programs that have been certified either: (1) By an approved state program as determined by the Secretary of the Interior; or (2) Directly by the Secretary of the Interior in states without approved programs. 


When in your project planning should I apply for a floodplain development permit?

The floodplain development permit should be submitted with the underlying building permit because a floodplain development permit is contingent on the issuance of a building permit certifying compliance with all other relevant city and NYS Uniform Building codes. 

Though we cannot grant preliminary permit approvals, we understand the investment necessary to submit a building and flood plain development permit application and so we are happy to discuss your project prior to the submission of a formal application. Additionally, we will work with you to bring our project into compliance with the relevant laws after the applications have been submitted.


What do I do if I disagree with the Department of Building & Regulatory Compliance’s denial of my floodplain development permit?

Under Albany City Code § 375-172.3 an applicant who has been denied a floodplain development permit may apply for a variance from the floodplain development guidelines or challenge a determination of the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance by appealing the decision to the City of Albany Board of Zoning Appeals.

The BZA will consider the following when evaluating an application for a variance:
  1. The danger that materials may be swept onto other lands to the injury of others;
  2. The danger to life and property due to flooding or erosion damage;
  3. The susceptibility of the proposed facility and its contents to flood damage, and the effect of such damage on the individual owner;
  4. The importance of the services provided by the proposed facility to the community;
  5. The necessity to the facility of a waterfront location, where applicable;
  6. The availability of alternative locations for the proposed use which are not subject to flooding or erosion damage;
  7. The compatibility of the proposed use with existing and anticipated development;
  8. The relationship of the proposed use to the Comprehensive Plan and floodplain management program of that area;
  9. The safety of access to the property in times of flood for ordinary and emergency vehicles;
  10. The costs to local governments and the dangers associated with conducting search-and-rescue operations during periods of flooding;
  11. The expected heights, velocity, duration, rate of rise and sediment transport of the floodwaters and the effects of wave action, if applicable, expected at the site; and
  12. The costs of providing governmental services during and after flood conditions, including search-and-rescue operations, maintenance and repair of public utilities and facilities such as sewer, gas, electrical, and water systems and streets and bridges.
In addition to these factors, under Albany City Code § 375-172.4, the BZA will consider the size of the lot, the historical value of the building and other measures that are taken to minimize the damage the building would suffer in the event of a flood. No variance will be granted without a written justification showing 1) “good and sufficient cause”, 2) “a determination that failure to grant the variance would result in exceptional hardship to the applicant” and 3) “a determination that the granting of a variance will not result in increased flood heights, additional threats to public safety, extraordinary public expense, create nuisances, cause fraud on or victimization of the public or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances.”

Any variances granted exempting structures from the flood plain development guidelines must be the minimum variance necessary and may be made conditional on factors as deemed necessary by the BZA. 


What is a swimming pool under state law?

Under state law, a “swimming pool” is defined as “any structure . . . which is intended for swimming or diving, recreational bathing, or wading which . . . is capable of containing more than 24 inches of water deep at any point.” NYS ICC R326.2. This includes hot tubs, spas, and, importantly, the “temporary” pop-up pools which have become popular in recent years. It does not include “kiddie pools” designed to hold less than 24 inches of water.


When is a permit needed for a swimming pool?

No pool may be constructed without obtaining a building permit from the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance. If a swimming pool is found to have been constructed without a permit, it will be subject to a stop work order, an unsafe/unfit declaration, and a $300 fine.


How do I apply for a permit to construct a swimming pool?

If your pool will be installed by a contractor or professional pool installer, it should be their responsibility to apply for the required permits. Permit applicants incur worker’s compensation and other professional liability for the work done according to the permits they apply for and regular home owners are usually not in a position to take on this liability. For this reason, we strongly encourage homeowners to research the liability they are taking on when they take out a permit on behalf of contractors doing work on their homes. 

In addition to the information requested on the relevant forms, the permit applicant will have to provide manufacturer’s specifications for the swimming pool (or hot tub, or spa) being installed or certification from an engineer certifying that the proposed swimming pool will comply with NYS ICC R326.3 and/or R326.4. This certification should include drawings, and diagrams with enough information to allow our Building Inspectors to evaluate whether the pool will be in compliance with code. The code requirements are discussed generally below.

In addition to the building permit for the pool, if a barrier is to be installed or there is plumbing work to be done for the pool an additional building or plumbing permit must also be obtained.


Where do the regulations for swimming pools come from?

Swimming pools are regulated by the NYS Uniform Building Code. When NYS adopted the International Code Council Building Code, it did not adopt that Building Code’s swimming pool regulations. Instead, the NYS Division of Codes issued its own swimming pool regulations in its 2016 Uniform Code Supplement. The information provided here is based off of that supplement.


Do I need to put up a fence around a swimming pool? What kind of fence?

The greatest danger swimming pools pose are to small children who use a pool without adult supervision. This is why all pools must be surrounded by a fence with the exception of above-ground pools which are greater than 48 inches in height and are accessible by stairs which, when locked and secured, comply with the requirements below.

For this reason, NYS law mandates that pools be made inaccessible to small children. The barrier requirements, which are complicated, can be found at NYS ICC R326.5. What follows does not completely cover all the requirements that apply to the barriers that must be installed around new swimming pools. The information here is only meant to make you aware of what to consider when planning the installation of your swimming pool.

Temporary Barriers 

While a pool is being constructed, it must be surrounded by a temporary barrier of at least 48 inches in height unless:

  1. It is an above-ground pool more than 48 inches in height with stairs which can be locked and/or made inaccessible or; 
  2. It is a hot tub with a cover that complies with ASTM F 1346 (check the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure your cover complies). Temporary barriers must be replaced with permanent barriers within 90 days of either the issuance of the permit or the commencement of construction.

Permanent Barriers
As with temporary barriers, permanent swimming pool barriers must be at least 48 inches high and allow a maximum of 2 inches clearance between the ground and the bottom of the fence or 4 inches between the bottom of the fence and the top of the pool in the case of fences mounted to the pool structure itself. 

A permanent barrier cannot have openings which allow for the passage of a 4-inch-diameter sphere or have indentations or protrusions beyond normal construction tolerances or in the area of gate openings.

If using a chain link fence as a pool barrier, the mesh size of chain link fence pool barriers cannot be greater than 2.25 inches unless equipped with slats which allow for openings no greater than 1.75 inches. 

All gates in pool barriers must be self-closing and latching and, if it is a pedestrian access gate, must open away from the pool. The gate latch must be at least 40 inches above grade and within three inches of the top of the fence if the latch is located within 54 inches of the bottom of the gate. There can’t be any opening greater than half an inch within 18 inches of the latch handle. Finally, gates must be securely locked so as to prevent access to the pool through the gate when the swimming pool is unsupervised. 

If the pool is accessible from the residential dwelling, the pool must be equipped with a powered swimming pool cover that conforms with ASTM F 1346 or the doors that access the pool must have an alarm that is listed in accordance with UL2017 or be self-latching and afford as much protection as the alarm or the cover.

Barriers must be situated so as to prohibit permanent structures from being used to climb those barriers. 
Finally, hot tubs with covers that comply with ASTM F 1346 are not required by law to be surrounded by a fence.


What kind of coverings does a swimming pool require for water circulation systems?

Pools must be equipped with water circulation systems capable of moving water in the pool. These systems will require suction outlets which have the ability to trap someone, particularly small children, under water. Therefore, there are three major code requirements set out at R326.6 that apply to water circulation systems:
  1. All suction outlets must be equipped with a grate that conforms with ANSI/ASME A112.19.8M or is at least 18 by 23 inches; and
  2. Separate suction outlets must be at least three feet apart; and
  3. Be equipped with an atmospheric vacuum relief system which will automatically cut off suction when a suction outlet becomes clogged.
Pool manufacturers will be aware of these requirements and will generally construct their water circulation systems with them in mind, but it is always advisable to be aware of these requirements so that you can check the manufacturer’s specification yourself and to make sure your own systems are safe.


Do I need to install an alarm in my pool and, if so, what kind?

All swimming pools or spas installed, constructed, or substantially modified after December 14, 2006, must be equipped with a pool alarm except for pools equipped with a powered safety cover or a hot tub or spa which is equipped with a safety cover which complies with ASTM F1346. 

The required pool alarm must comply with ASTM F2208 and be capable of detecting entry into the water at any point in the pool and activating when hearing such entry so that the alarm can be heard in the pool and inside the associated dwelling. 

Even where not required, pool alarms are relatively inexpensive (about $150), easy to install, and save lives. They are strongly recommended. 


Where can I legally construct a pool?

Swimming pools may be constructed in residential zones but do count towards maximum lot coverage requirements. If a swimming pool will put you over the maximum lot coverage, a variance will have to be obtained before a permit can be issued for the swimming pool. The City of Albany Zoning Code at § 375-97 also mandates swimming pools may only be erected on the same lot as the principal structure and that swimming pools can only be erected in rear yards, at least 6 feet from the side yard, 10 feet from the rear lot line, and 6 feet from the principal structure.


Am I legally obligated to keep my pool clean and sanitary?

Yes, Albany City Code § 231-49 requires that swimming pool water be cleaned and maintained in a sanitary manner.


How do I renew a permit if it is about to expire?

The Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance can renew a permit at a discounted fee upon request. In order to renew your permit, first contact the inspector assigned to your project.

Permit renewals will be granted as follows. At the discretion of the assigned inspector, a free three month extension will be granted if you are just finishing up the work and need some extra time. Otherwise a permit will be extended for six months for one quarter of the original application fee and for a year for one half of the original application fee. Due to changes in the law, we cannot renew a permit more than two years past the original expiration date. 


How much does it cost to renew a permit?

The cost of renewing a permit is 50% of the original fee for a full year’s renewal. If you only need an additional six months to complete your project, the cost of renewal is 25% of the original fee. 

In the event that you only need a few weeks to complete your project, the building inspector at her or his discretion may provide a permit holder an additional three months to complete the project. If the project is not completed in those three months, however, the permit will have to be renewed for either six months or a year. If that happens, the renewal is backdated to the original permit expiration date but the building inspector may grant the free month extension again should work slightly overrun schedule on the new permit expiration date. 


Is it legal to rent a unit through Airbnb?

So long as you obtain an ROP, it is legal to rent a unit through Airbnb or another short term rental service. That said, property owners should be wary of turning their property into a bed and breakfast, hotel, motel, or other transient housing in which case a variance may have to be obtained depending on the zoning ordinance that applies to the property. The Department policy is that if a unit on a property is intentionally rented to three different renter households in any given month or more than twelve different renter households in a given year then that property is being used as transient housing and will be subject to a cease and desist order if that use violates the applicable zoning ordinance. 


Do I need to get an ROP to rent my apartment through Airbnb?

An ROP is required by Albany City Code §231-139 whenever a unit is rented, no matter for how long. Therefore, an ROP is required if you plan to rent a unit through Airbnb. If you’re simply renting a bedroom in an existing unit you occupy, an ROP would not be required. 


What are the “Red X’s” showing up on vacant buildings?

The “Red X’s” or Vacant Building Placards are being placed on known vacant buildings which are unsafe to enter by the Albany Fire Department as a warning to first responders who may be called to these buildings in the event of an emergency. This placarding program allows the Fire Department to inspect each of these known vacant buildings twice each year so that the City can keep a better eye on vacant properties and is required under the New York State Fire Code 311.5. 

Implementation of the “Red X’s” also provides an opportunity for the Codes and Fire Departments to collaborate on the problem of vacant buildings and take a more systematic approach to monitoring them. 


My building has a “red X” on it, what do I do now?

The “red X”s are a safety measure required by state law and are placed on buildings by the Albany Fire Department to warn first-responders that a building may not be safe to enter. If your building was given a “red X” incorrectly, you have two options in terms of having it removed. First, you may provide our Department with a stamped engineer’s letter confirming that the building is safe to enter. Second you can schedule an inspection with one of our code enforcement officers and so we can confirm that the building is safe to enter. Once we have the engineer’s letter or the building passes inspection, we will forward information to the Fire Department and the placard will be removed by Fire Department personnel.