As many renters know, Heat Season starts on October 1 in New York City. With two months left, it's important to understand the details of this law.
From October 1 to May 31, residential landlords must provide heat in their buildings. The law states that between 6:00 in the morning and 10:00 at night, the indoor temperature must be at least 68 degrees if the outside temperature is lower than 55 degrees. Between 10:00 at night and 6:00 in the morning, the indoor temperature must be at least 55 degrees if the outdoor temperature is lower than 40 degrees.
These seem like simple guidelines, but as is the case with many landlord-tenant issues, it is often a battle to get heat in your apartment. The NYC Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) office reports that as of January 22, 2017, there have been 118,476 heat complaints in the current Heat Season. The numbers for the same period last year were 113,272.
What can you do?
If you have talked to your landlord but still do not have heat, you can take action. Renters can file a complaint with the HPD by calling 311 or logging it online. You can also take the case to Housing Court. If you cannot afford an attorney to represent you, the city may provide you with free legal aid.
While it may be tempting to refuse to pay your rent until the heat comes on, this is typically not a good idea. Talk to a lawyer about your rights and options in this situation before you risk being taken to court for not paying rent.
When the HPD gets involved
If landlords do not address the problem after receiving notice from the HPD, the HPD may levy fines against them. Heat violation fines are $250-$500 a day for every initial violation. Landlords may be fined $500-$1,000 a day for every subsequent heat violation that occurs in the same building in the same period or within the next calendar year.
Each case is unique, however, so it's possible that your landlord may not face these fines. If possible, having a lawyer to protect your rights may increase the chance that your landlord is made responsible for breaking the law.