Heat & Hot Water

What are the first steps I should take if I’m not getting adequate heat or hot water?

If your landlord does not provide heat and hot water at the minimum temperatures required by law, you must take steps to enforce your rights.

  1. Call the New York City Central Complaints Bureau at 311 immediately to record the landlord’s violation. Call repeatedly, and keep a detailed record of your complaint reference number. An inspector should eventually come, although sometimes they don’t. Inspectors may come unannounced, so if you will be gone during the day, work out a way for a neighbor or friend to give access to your apartment if an inspector shows up when you’re gone.
  2. Get other tenants in your building to call 311. Everybody should call repeatedly, at least once every day, until the condition is corrected.
  3. Write and call the landlord and demand that the heat or hot water be turned on, and/or that the boiler be fixed and filled immediately. It’s always advisable to make your complaint in writing, keep a copy of the letter for yourself, and send it certified mail, return receipt requested, from the post office. If you end up in court, this will be much of your evidence. A conversation – whether in person or on the phone – will not hold up in court, because there is no proof that it actually occurred!
  4. Buy a good indoor/outdoor thermometer and keep a chart of the exact dates, times, and temperature readings, inside and out, until the condition is corrected. This will be useful if you end up in court. DOWNLOAD MET COUNCIL ON HOUSING’S TENANT HEAT LOG!

How can I take my landlord to court to force him/her to provide adequate heat or hot water?

You can start an HP Action for repairs and services in Housing Court to force your landlord to turn on the heat (or to turn it up). Ask for a court-ordered inspection and an Order to Correct.

Tenants have a legal right to withhold rent and go on a rent strike — but there are many consequences for doing so. Always consult a lawyer before taking this step.

For more about these processes, read our information sheet on Getting Repairs.

How can I get a rent abatement or rent freeze as a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenant?

Tenants with rent stabilization or rent control can get an order from the New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR) that freezes and reduces rent when essential services are not provided, as well as prohibiting rent increases until the services are restored.

Tenants can now report emergency and non-emergency conditions online through DHCR: Online Decreased Services Application.

Tenants can also file for a rent reduction for lack of heat or hot water by filling out and mailing Form HHW-1-Failure To Provide Heat And/Or Hot Water – Tenant Application For Rent Reduction to DHCR. You must first get a report from a city inspector by calling 311 and attach the report to your form when submitting.

For a building-wide issues, you can either attach a schedule of other tenants to the Form HHW-1 or you can file a Form RA-84 (Application For A Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreased Building-Wide Service(s)) with DHCR. When using the building-wide form, get as many other tenants as possible in your building to sign.

You can request any of these forms by mail by calling DHCR at 833-499-0343. For more information on these procedures, see DHCR’s fact sheet on heat and hot water

If the landlord refuses to give heat, is there a way to get the city to do it?

The city’s Emergency Repair Department may supply your heat if the landlord does not. But don’t wait for this! It’s rare for the city to intervene in this manner, but assistance from your local elected officials can help in this process.

If a boiler’s fuel tank is empty, tenants have the right to buy their own fuel after 24 hours of no heat and no response from the landlord. However, this provision does not apply if the boiler is broken and needs both repairs and fuel.

CAUTION! Protect your money! If you decide to buy fuel, you must follow special lawful procedures very carefully. Get help and advice from a tenant organizer.

How much can the landlord be fined for not providing adequate heat?

  • The laws allow for a fine up to $500 per day to the landlord for every day of an initial heat violation, and up to $1,000 per day for subsequent violations during a limited time period. However, Housing Court often does not imposes these fines, let alone collect them.
  • The law allows for a $1,000 fine to the landlord if an automatic control device is put on the boiler to keep the temperature below the lawful minimum.

Just because there are heat and hot water laws on the law books doesn’t mean that the government enforces them. Don’t freeze to death waiting for the city or state to act. Organize!

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