NYC Intercom Law

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. We are not a lawyer or a law firm. This is simply our interpretation of the NYC Intercom Law. Please contact a licensed attorney if you need assistance interpreting this or any other laws.


Owning or managing a property in New York City is complicated enough. You’re already spending time providing a great living experience for your residents — and if you’re looking for an installer to upgrade or replace your apartment intercom system, the last thing you need is to get bogged down in NYC’s apartment regulations. You’ve got a lot on your plate without worrying about getting caught up in legal technicalities.

In this guide to the NYC intercom law, we’ll summarize the city’s laws regarding apartment intercoms. Then, we’ll explain how to comply with these laws and how to meet legal requirements with ButterflyMX’s video intercom system.

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best apartment video intercom systems


What is the NYC intercom law?

According to the NYC intercom law, your apartment building needs an intercom if it was built or converted for residential use after January 1st, 1968, and if it contains eight or more apartments. Under those conditions, you’re legally required to install an intercom. NYC intercom law outlines the functions an intercom must perform as well. Intercoms must allow apartment residents to communicate with guests from inside their apartments. Also, residents must be able to use intercoms to unlock the building’s main entryway and allow guests to enter.

Below is a section of N.Y. Multiple Dwelling Law § 50-a, explaining which types of buildings need intercom systems:


“Every class A multiple dwelling erected or converted after January first, nineteen hundred sixty-eight containing eight or more apartments shall also be equipped with an intercommunication system. Such intercommunication system shall be located at an automatic self-locking door giving public access to the main entrance hall or lobby of said multiple dwelling and shall consist of a device or devices for voice communication between the occupant of each apartment and a person outside said door to the main entrance hall or lobby and to permit such apartment occupant to release the locking mechanism of said door from the apartment.”


Which buildings in NYC need an intercom?

You need to install an intercom if:

  • Your building is classified as a “Class A” multiple dwelling, which is the designation for dwellings that residents permanently occupy.
  • The building was constructed or converted into an apartment for residential use after January 1, 1968.
  • Your building contains eight or more apartments.

If your building meets all three of these conditions, you’re required to install an intercom.


How does New York City law define an intercom?

If your building qualifies as one that needs an intercom, you’ll have to install a system that meets the city’s requirements.

Under NYC law, an intercom must:

  • Be able to unlock a self-locking door.
  • Have one device that a resident can use to communicate with guests and release the door’s locking mechanism.
  • Have another device stationed outside of a main entrance hall or lobby that a guest can use to communicate with a resident.


Watch how ButterflyMX works:


Does ButterflyMX comply with NYC intercom laws?

Yes, we believe ButterflyMX intercoms comply with NYC intercom laws and the tenant data privacy act; however, we recommend that you contact a licensed real estate attorney in New York City to confirm that you’re in compliance before proceeding with the purchase and installation of our intercom.

ButterflyMX intercoms are at the forefront of property technology. Residents and property managers alike can count on ButterflyMX to provide a host of cutting-edge features that make lives easier.

Residents can use their smartphones to open doors and grant guests access — whether they’re at home or halfway around the world. Tenants can also send out virtual keys that allow their recipients entry during specific times or days.

For managers, ButterflyMX makes property administration easier with a web-based operating system that displays an audit trail of all door release events and software that automatically updates its directory as residents move in and out.

Let’s take another quick look at what the law says an intercom has to do and compare these requirements with ButterflyMX intercom specs.


Requirement ButterflyMX
Does ButterflyMX allow for voice communication? Yes
Does ButterflyMX allow for communication between residents and a person outside a main entrance hall or lobby? Yes
Does ButterflyMX permit a resident to release a door-locking mechanism from inside their apartment? Yes


Accommodations for ButterflyMX users without smartphones

The ButterflyMX intercom works for all residents, whether they have a smartphone or not. If some of your tenants don’t have a smartphone, they can still use ButterflyMX.

If you want to supplement your ButterflyMX intercom with in-unit hardware, we have some suggestions:

  1. Princess phone
  2. In-unit tablet


Princess phone

A princess phone is a term used to describe a traditional, corded telephone with a keypad. The ButterflyMX intercom makes a regular telephone call to whatever phone number is programmed into it (landline or cell phone). The resident then presses ‘9’ to open the door for their guest.

Princess phones interact with ButterflyMX hardware by using SIP protocols, which are a set of rules that transfer phone call data over an internet connection. While princess phones are cheap to install and maintain, residents with princess phones can’t take full advantage of ButterflyMX’s features and functionality. For example, they won’t be able to video chat with guests or send virtual keys.


In-unit tablet

If you want to allow your residents without smartphones to take advantage of all of ButterflyMX’s features, in-unit tablets are a great option. Unlike princess phones, tablets can leverage all of ButterflyMX’s potential — you can purchase any Android or Apple tablet, which can then be installed inside each apartment unit.

These tablets can be set up so that tenants can only use them to access the ButterflyMX app. Generally, tablets are secure, easier to mount, and easier to wire into your building.

Mounting tablets on a wall will provide residents with a sleek, tech-forward living space. Your tenants can then talk with visitors and grant access through the ButterflyMX mobile app. They’ll also be able to access other features, like Virtual Keys and Delivery Passes.


NYC intercom law takeaways

  • In New York City, you only need to install an intercom if your building is classified as a “Class A” multiple dwelling that was constructed or converted into apartment use after January 1, 1968, and if your building contains eight or more apartments.
  • To comply with the law, your intercom must allow for communication between visitors and residents.
  • If you want to install in-unit hardware, you can use princess phones or in-unit tablets.
  • If you choose in-unit tablets, you can purchase Android or Apple tablets and install the ButterflyMX mobile app.
  • ButterflyMX meets the NYC intercom law by allowing residents to use their telephone, smartphone, or another device to unlock the door for visitors.


Now that you understand the legal side of things, you’re ready to install or replace your building’s intercom system — plus give your property’s residents, staff, and visitors a variety of useful features — by choosing a ButterflyMX video intercom.


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Sophia Cooper

Born and raised in Colorado, I love the outdoors, good food, and anything related to real estate or technology.