Although the 2020 winter season has been very mild, New Yorkers must not get too comfortable because winter is not over yet! Winters in New York City can be brutal. Between commuting on the outdoor subway platforms to watching your steps while navigating the unshoveled New York City sidewalks, the last thing renters want to deal with is cold temperatures at home. According to New York City heating laws, your landlord must provide sufficient heat and hot water. Read below for more information about the NYC heat laws and your remedies if you find yourself in a situation where your apartment lacks sufficient heat.
New York City Heat Laws Overview
In New York City, tenants have the explicit right to have a sufficiently heated apartment during the winter months. According to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”), owners and property managers alike are required to provide hot water year-round. Additionally, heat must be provided under certain conditions during the “heat season,” which runs from October 1st to May 31st.”
The heat laws during heat season are as follows.
- From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., your landlord must ensure that the temperature inside the apartment is at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit if the outside temperature is below 55 degrees; and,
- From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the temperature inside the apartment must be at least 62 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unfortunately, landlords and property managers are frequently caught violating the NYC heat laws. For example, in 2019 alone, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”) received over 3,000 heat-related complaints.
What can you do if your landlord has violated NYC Heat Laws?
Withhold Rent if Your Apartment Lacks Heat
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation that your landlord has violated NYC heat laws and continues to break the rules, you have a few options. While technically, you are legally allowed to withhold the rent, tenants should be cautious when pursuing this remedy. Specifically, your landlord could turn around and sue you for nonpayment of rent, if you withhold rent altogether or only pay partial rent. However, when this happens, you are legally allowed to interpose a counterclaim based upon the landlord’s breach of warranty of habitability. In that instance, the Court will order a rent abatement if you are legally entitled to one.
Nevertheless, tenants have no idea what amount the Court will order, so tenants should be prepared to pay the full rent, as a worst-case scenario. Accordingly, tenants should only withhold rent if he or she is responsible enough to put the rent money to the side until the Court orders a set amount to be paid. In the event that a tenant can’t pay the rent (minus any court-ordered rent abatements), the tenant runs the risk of being evicted for nonpayment of rent.
Notify the Landlord in Writing
Instead of withholding rent, the first thing you should consider doing is giving your landlord notice. This could be achieved by calling your landlord, sending an email, or a letter. Your lease or building rules should outline the procedures to file a maintenance request etc. You should also have your Super’s contact number to make a repair request. However, no matter how you choose to give your landlord notice, you should keep a copy of all written correspondence for your records.
File a Compliant or Call 311 if Your Apartment Lacks Heat
If the lack of heat in your apartment is more of an emergency (e.g., it’s 12 degrees outside, and you have no heat or hot water), you can file a complaint with the city online or call 311 to report the conditions to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”). During the winter months and periods of cold weather, this is a useful tactic to address heat complaints instantly.
Commence an HP Legal Proceeding if Your Apartment Lacks Heat
If all else fails, you can commence a legal proceeding in housing court against the landlord, called an “HP proceeding.” Essentially, this is a court case brought by tenants against the landlord to compel repairs within the apartment, correct any outstanding building violations, or fix any other outstanding issues that the tenant has with the landlord or building.
When you go to Housing Court in your county, the clerk will help you fill out an “Order to Show Cause Directing the Correction of Violations.” In the Order to Show Cause and Petition, you will list the lack of heat and the details to support your claim. You can also mention any other conditions in need of repair in each room of the apartment and public areas. When you file the HP Proceeding, you have the option to request an inspection of your apartment from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD); however, in order to get a faster court date/appearance, you can request an inspection after the initial court appearance.
In the event that you cannot afford to pay the filing fee to commence an HP proceeding, you can apply to proceed as a poor person. If the Court approves your application, you will be allowed to continue with your case against the landlord for free.
Since New York City imposes daily fines, in addition to building violations and emergency repair liens when there is a lack of heat in the apartment (and for other repairs), most landlords respond quickly to 311 complaints and HP Proceedings.
What if You have Heat, but it’s Still too Cold?
In reality, 68 degrees can still be too cold for some tenants. In that event, tenants may consider installing electric space heaters to sufficiently heat their apartments. However, before installing electric space heaters, tenants should make sure they take the necessary fire safety precautions. Primarily an electric space heater should never be kept near anything that can catch fire, like nears rugs or furniture.
Additionally, space heaters should be kept on even surfaces to avoid tipping over and causing a fire. Lastly, space heaters should never be installed on a power strip. Instead, they should be installed in a dedicated electrical outlet. Keep in mind that electric space heaters will use a lot of electricity and will increase your bill.
What can you do If you have too much heat in your apartment?
In larger buildings, it hard to balance the heat between differently sized units on several floors. Because many pre-war buildings do not allow tenants to control their heat in each apartment, tenants are often faced with too much heat in older apartments/buildings, which can become very annoying. To combat this issue, tenants can install a device called a thermostatic radiator valve on old radiators. This device can regulate the amount of heat that comes out of the radiator. However, it will cost a couple of hundreds of dollars for your landlord to install, and there’s no guarantee that landlords will agree to install them. As a last resort, tenants may have to crack the windows to get relief from hot temperatures.