What is an Alteration Agreement and Why is it So Important?

99.98% of buildings in New York have what is called an “Alteration Agreement”.

An alteration agreement is your buildings rules and guidelines to your renovation. They have more power than the Department of Buildings. It is often that the DOB will allow you to do certain things in your renovation that your building will deny.

A lot of people seem to think that their building is not that strict, and they will be able to get away with not pulling permits and quickly get the approval they need to start their renovation. That is not the case 98% of the time. Going in with this assumption can cause you lots of aggravation, stress, and back-and-forth with your Buildings Management company. Allow yourself time for this part of the process.

A building approval process can be as quick as a few weeks if not, up to a year, especially if you are trying to get things done without the proper licenses, Insurances, and permits.

How long will my approval process take?

Even if you had a crystal ball you can’t predict how long your building Management and the other parties involved will take to provide your approval but there are some parameters you can use to guesstimate. If your building has a qualified Management company and you’re looking to complete a straightforward renovation (you are not moving any gas lines or water and sanitary lines) you can get approval in *30 days or less. *As long as you submit all of the required documents and licenses. If not, expect significant delays due to lengthy back-and-forth conversations between your building management company and other parties handling your approval process.

Although a 30-day approval process is rare it does happen when you have an experienced firm handling the process and a great building managing agent. The average approval usually takes about 3 months. You might think that’s crazy and you’re right but there are so many factors in this process such as your buildings Architect or engineer, your building managing agent, your contractor, your Architect, etc.

There have been approvals that took a year to negotiate. This is rare but it does happen. Give yourself 3 months for the approval process to be safe. If you have a good firm handling the process and a good building managing agent, 3 months is a sufficient amount of time to obtain your approval.

What information does the alteration agreement have in it?


Building hours

when your contractor can and can’t work. If your building hours are from 9-4 you can bet that your project will take 20% longer and will cost 20% more.

Insurance Requirements

The higher your buildings insurance requirements are, the more expensive your renovation could cost. Companies with high limits pay much higher insurance premiums. This cost ends up getting passed on to you. *Make sure to verify your buildings insurance requirements before getting quotes or you will end up wasting your time with contractors that your building won’t approve.

Required Permits

Pulling DOB permits is a timely and costly process.

Required Upgrades

Your building may require you to upgrade your Plumbing branches and your electrical lines.

Approval Process

Building management may require your plans to be submitted to the buildings Architect, Engineer, or Both. This will definitely increase the processing time for your approval and possibly additional cost.


Every Alteration requires a security deposit made out to your management company or board plus a management fee.

Quick tip: Read your Alteration Agreement prior to getting bids on your project. If you know what your building requirements are you can get a more accurate quote from your contractors.

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