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Heat and Hot Water Regulations - How to Handle a Cold Apartment

Article ID: 31
Last updated: 01 Oct, 2011
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Heat and hot water levels are governed by both local law which is known as the Housing and Maintenance Code and by state law known as the Multiple Dwelling Law.


Building owners are required to provide hot water 365 days per year at a constant minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 


In New York City, from October 1 to May 31, the "heat season," between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10 AM, if the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside temperature is required to be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, if the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside temperature is required to be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are no guidelines or regulations in place for too much heat.  If you are too hot, call the building manager.

Approximately six years ago, Ownership/Management installed heat sensors in every building in ST/PCV.  These sensors are designed to regulate the heat risers feeding each room in each apartment line.   By staggering the heat sensors on every other floor and taking the average reading, a computer can manually adjust special mechanical valves that then throttle the amount of steam rising from the basement.

It is not uncommon for these devices to need re-calibration from time-to-time, particularly at the beginning of the heat season.

What to do and how to do it:

Measure, Log, and Complain

Tenants who are cold in their apartments should first measure and record the:

  • Temperature inside the each of the cold rooms in the apartment and the time of day and date of the reading
    (yes, the burden of proof is on you, so go out and buy an inexpensive room thermometer);

  • Temperature outside the building and the time of day of the reading (should be taken immediately after the inside temperature is taken);

The tenant should then:

  • Notify and register a complaint with the building owner/managing agent;
  • Be sure to record the name of the person you lodge your complaint with and time and date of each complaint;

What the tenant should expect from Management:

  • Usually, Management will dispatch an engineer to record the temperature inside your apartment with a digital thermometer.  (Sometimes it can take a while for the engineer to arrive.)
  • If the engineer arrives and finds the temperature to be within the NYC guidelines above, you should expect nothing.
    (Therefore consider the consequences of trying to warm yourself and your apartment by other means before the engineer arrives.)

When the engineer arrives you should do the following:

  • Record the name of the engineer and the time and date of arrival.
  • Make sure the engineer records the temperature in each affected room.
  • After the engineer has taken the temperature ask to see the reading for yourself.
  • If the temperature falls outside of the NYC guidelines above record the temperature and ask the engineer how he/she will work to resolve the issue, and note it in your log.

Based on past reports, we know that if the engineer's temperature recording shows the apartment is too cold the engineer will attempt to adjust the temperature for the cold room(s) for your line from the control panel in the basement.

If the problem is not resolved, you will need to repeat the steps outlined above.

Your log will become very important evidence should the problem continue.   We can't stress enough its importance.

Additionally, you should find allies in your neighbors.  Check with your neighbors in the same apartment line above and below you.   If they are having the same problem then encourage them to complain as well using the steps above.  Often times when groups of tenants complain the complaint is heard and acted upon and can be more effective than an individual complaint.

If the above steps fail, you can call 311 to complain. (For people who are hearing impaired, the TTY number is (212) 504-4115.)  The NYC Department of Housing Preservation, and Development (HPD is the enforcement agency for complaints.  The HPD Inspector will come out and also measure the temperatures, and if the HPD Inspector agrees your apartment is too cold will take enforcement action against the Owner/Manager.

If the problem happens regularly, you can also consider filing for a Rent Reduction for a Decrease in Services with the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal which is the enforcement agency at the state level.


HPD, DHCR, ST/PCV-TA - John Marsh

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