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With NYC receiving lighter than average snowfall for the past few years, it’s easy to forget the effect that snow and ice can have on NYC buildings. This winter, however, we have been well reminded. February 2021 brought NYC its heaviest snowstorm in five years—and by the end of the month, the city had accumulated 26 inches of snow, making it the eighth snowiest February on record.


Between the thousands of aging rooftops and relatively poor drainage, the melting and re-freezing of snow and ice can wreak havoc on NYC buildings in several ways, creating the potential for damage to residents’ belongings and their health. Let’s look at a few areas of concern.


Leaking Ceilings and Walls


When snow and sleet begin the cycles of melting and re-freezing, they create “ice dams”—areas of ice that disrupt and change the normal flow of drainage off the roofs. When this happens, water can be forced into areas it normally avoids. Water can seep underneath shingles and membranes, and eventually, roofs can begin to leak, sending water through ceilings and down walls into the apartments below. In some cases, these leaks can damage your belongings.


Structural Damage


In situations where the rooftop is weakened due to age, the sheer weight of the snow can sometimes cause the roof to collapse, sending snow and debris into the apartments below and causing property damage and possible injury. When drainage systems are clogged by ice dams, snowmelt can also run down the sides of the buildings, deteriorating plaster and grout—and in some cases, it can seep into the building foundation, causing it to crack and shift. At best, a damaged foundation can cause uneven flooring; at worst, it can make the building unlivable.


Toxic Mold Growth


Another danger with snowmelt on NYC buildings is the potential for toxic mold. When the melting water leaks inside into warmer spaces (e.g., inside the walls, on wood floors, or into carpeting), the standing moisture can become a breeding ground for mold. You can often detect mold by its musty smell, but even without an odor, the presence of mold can be dangerous to your health and can cause a variety of symptoms.


When snow and ice accumulate on NYC buildings, building owners and landlords need to be mindful of potential issues with snowmelt, including keeping rooftops clear and in good repair. If you have experienced leaks or mold growth through the negligence of a landlord, you may be entitled to compensation—especially if you’ve sustained property damage or health problems. Call our offices to discuss your situation and your options.


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