The NYC Department of Sanitation reports that New Yorkers throw away over 10,000 tons of garbage per day. To deal with this huge amount of waste, the Department of Sanitation has developed an extensive list of rules and regulations that apply to individuals, businesses, apartment/condo locations, and anyone else in New York City.

The Sanitation Department is serious about enforcing these rules, too. In 2017 alone, they issued 456,373 summonses for violations of various laws and regulations. The Sanitation Department has over 300 agents and officers to issue citations.

Knowing the laws and other basics about sanitation violations goes a long way to help you or your business avoid accidental violations. Increasing compliance in general will also help you do your part to keep New York City clean as well.

The Basics: What is a Sanitation Violation?

When a Department of Sanitation Officer notices a violation, he or she will issue a “summons.” This document is just like a citation. It cites a “quality of life” rule or regulation and describes how you violated that law. Many quality of life summonses deal with trash and recycling, but they can also cover things like keeping your dog on a leash as well.

What Do I Do If I Get a Citation?

When you receive a Notice of Summons from the officer, you can do one of two things. You can choose to pay the fine, or you can fight it. If you do nothing and do not respond to the summons, then you will likely be found in violation of the charge (a default), and you may end up having to pay a higher fine.

Who Administers Citations?

OATH stands for “Office of Administrative Trial and Hearings.” OATH is a separate and independent administrative law court that is not part of the state court system.

OATH administers sanitation violations, as well as various other agencies in New York City. Hearing locations can be found throughout the city.

Can I Fight a Citation?

If you choose to contest the summons, you can do that in a few ways. The first way is to simply attend the OATH hearing in person so a judge can review your case. The hearing date, location, and time should be listed on your summons.

You can also choose to fight the summons in writing by mail, online (either by a form or using a webcam), or have your hearing over the phone. In some cases, however, you are required to appear in person to address the summons. If an in-person appearance is required, that should be noted on your summons.

Common Sanitation Violations

Several sanitation violations end up being violated over and over again by both individuals and businesses in New York. Below are just a few of these violations and a couple of tips on how to avoid a citation.

  • Cleaning 18 Inches into the Street

One of the most common violations for both residents and business owners is a failure to clean the sidewalk, gutter, and street for 1.5 feet into the street. Property owners must also clean the sidewalks adjoining their property as well.

Although this rule applies at all times, sanitation agents are only permitted to do inspections for violations at certain times of the day. The times vary for businesses and residential areas, too. For residential areas, the checks can only occur from 8 AM to 9 AM and from 6 PM to 7 PM, seven days per week.

Commercial properties do not have as clear-cut time periods for inspections. Instead, they are on a rotation that varies based on the location of the business. Inspection periods are limited to one hour per day.

Knowing the inspection times can help you ensure that your area is free from debris or other issues before an inspection occurs. A violation of this rule could result in a fine between $100 and $300.

  • Keeping Sidewalks Clear of Items

The Department of Sanitation is also charged with keeping sidewalks clear. Obstructions can mean more than just garbage. It can also include:

  • Recycling
  • Merchandise
  • Coin-operated rides
  • Sandwich or A-frame signs
  • ATMs
  • Bins or racks

The sidewalk obstructions in residential areas are more likely to be trash or bins, but businesses face different types of challenges. For example, merchandise structures are generally permitted, but they must not extend any more than three feet into the sidewalk and cannot be any higher than five-feet tall. However, there are several limitations, including strict limitations if the business is in a “zero sidewalk display” street.

Fines for sidewalk obstructions vary from $50 to $300, depending on the type of obstruction. There are also increased penalties if a person has more than 12 Notice of Violations within a 12-month period. The “repeat offender” penalties are higher than other related fines.

  • Collection and Recycling Timing

Knowing the schedule for your garbage and recycling pick up can be very helpful. If you have a private carter as a business, you need to post the carter’s sticker and pick up schedule in your window. Failing to simply post this carter information can result in a $100 fine.

For residents, trash and recycling pick up is based on where you live. You can only put out trash and recycling bins between 4 PM and midnight on the night before our pickup date. If your trash is collected before 4 PM, you must also retrieve your containers by 9 PM. If the pickup is after 4 PM, you have until 9 AM the following morning to gather your bins.

Knowing the deadlines to retrieve your bins and when you can put out your containers will help avoid the potential for fines and unnecessary fees.

Resolving Sanitation Violations

You can fight a summons on your own or with the help of an attorney. However, you can also use Approvall to remove sanitation violations. When you receive a notice of violation, we act quickly and accurately to help you address it, so you do not have to deal with it yourself. Just provide us with copies of the violations and any documentation or evidence that goes along with the citation.