Temporary Walls & Room Dividers – Illegal or Okay?

Temporary Wall with Frame

For as long as many of us can remember, New Yorkers have been putting up temporary floor-to-ceiling walls in their apartments to squeeze in an extra roommate and reduce their share of the rent.  Brilliant right?  You create a new room by walling off your living room and voilà… Jimmie moves in; he has a room to himself; you no longer have access to the kitchen; Jimmie has no access to the bathroom; but your share of the rent has been cut in half!

With the high average rent in Manhattan, subdividing a room and adding a roommate is certainly a way to bring down the rent.  But although these temporary floor-to-ceiling walls (aka pressurized walls) are commonplace, they usually violate NYC building code.  For various reasons the New York Department of Buildings has begun to investigate and look for violations more so than they have in the past.  Unless you and your landlord have jumped through several hoops – hired an architect, prepared plans, applied for approval, etc – it’s likely that you’re in violation.

If you’re not sure whether your temporary wall or room partition complies, ask your landlord (who you should have initially asked permission for the wall.) And if she or he is not sure, call 311 and request an inspection from the Department of Buildings.

If you have to take down the wall, at the very least there are always privacy screens and noise-cancelling headphones…