October 1 marked the first day of heat season. In past years, tenants complained they were freezing, while management claimed the automated heating system was working properly. Here’s what the law requires and what it allows you to do:
If these temperatures are not maintained, you should:
• Call management to report the problem. The city asks you to try to resolve the problem with management first.
• Call 311 to record the landlord’s violation. Call repeatedly. An inspector should eventually come. You can also file a complaint online.
• Get other tenants in your building to call 311. Everyone should call repeatedly, at least once every day the condition is not corrected.
• Buy a good indoor/outdoor thermometer, and keep a chart of exact dates, times, and temperature readings, inside and out. This is your evidence.
• Call the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) at (718) 739-6400, and ask them to send you their Heat and Hot Water Complaint form. Get as many other apartments as possible in your building to sign on, demanding an order to restore heat and a reduction and freeze in all the rents.
If the NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) sends out an inspector—and an inspector may arrive without alerting you ahead of time—there should be a follow-up HPD inspection to make sure that the situation is corrected. The cause may either be a heat delivery failure or an equipment failure. If both the heating pipes and the radiator are cold, that is a heat delivery failure. If the heating pipes are warm, but the radiator cold, that is an equipment failure. The inspector should carry a heat gun rather than a regular thermometer.
More than three complaints from a building over a 24-hour period will trigger an inspection of each complaining apartment. Inspections should be conducted within 48 hours of received complaints.
After the owner submits the certification of correction to HPD, an inspector should come within two weeks to verify that the issue (heat delivery or equipment or access) no longer exists. The owner cannot just “certify away” the issue.
Finally, tenants can file for a rent reduction based on lack of heat (see DHCR fact sheet #15). Click here for form. This is where your record keeping will be necessary—you will be required to attach a report from the agency to which you have complained.