Joined: 21 Jan 2002
Location: New York City
|Posted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 3:42 pm Post subject: Heating Requirements in NYC
|The official NYC Heat Season starts October 1. These heat requirements are for ALL apartments, not just rent regulated units.
HPD, Division of Code Enforcement, has a twenty four hour heat complaint telephone number -- the number is either 311 or 212-New-York (212-639-9675) for those with cell phones, VOIP, SKYPE or otherwise unable to access 311. For the hearing impaired, the TTY number is (212) 504-4115.
A TENANT'S GUIDE TO GETTING AND KEEPING GAS AND ELECTRICITY SERVICE
A guide for consumers in Brooklyn but useful for anyone looking to get and maintain gas and electric service.
THE HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (HEAP)
HEAP provides regular or emergency help to seniors and low-income families with heating bills. A one-time grant per year to help low-income homeowners and renters pay fuel and utility cost.
If you are 60 years or older, call NYC Department for the Aging HEAP Program: 212-442-1000
Those under 60 years, call: Human Resources Administration Infoline 877-472-8411
NOTE: this notice is compiled from various sources. While almost all of the information stays the same from year-to-year, if you discover anything that is outdated or incorrect, or if you think something ought to be included in future versions, please notify us at tenant-at-tenant.net (replace the "-at-" with the "@" sign.
HEAT SEASON STARTS October 1
Fact Sheet Courtesy of Community Training & Resource Center
October 1 through May 31
Heat is when outside temp. Inside Temp must
Required is below: be at least:
6:00 am - 10:00 pm 55° 68°
10:00 pm - 6:00 am 40° 55°
Hot Water is required 24 hours a day at a minimum temperature at the tap of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
In New York City, during the heating season from October 1 through May 31, tenant complaints of lack of heat and hot water are officially given top priority throughout the five boroughs by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) Division of Code Enforcement (DCE). A brutal winter may often send the temperature plummeting to below freezing for days at a time. Under such circumstances, any building without heat constitutes a life threatening, emergency situation for tenants, especially senior citizens, invalids and infants or young children.
It is not difficult to find reasons for the fact that heat and hot water problems are so commonplace. The cost of supplying fuel for heat and hot water service in a multiple dwelling is generally, after real estate taxes, the largest single expense incurred by its owner (luxury buildings may have employee payrolls that are larger). At current prices, the fuel bill (using #6 oil), in a year with average winter temperatures, for a typical one hundred unit apartment building would approximate $60,000. Landlords are too often tempted to look at this building expense as "controllable" and initiate a systematic cut-back in service calculated to produce substantial savings.
A large part of the NYC housing stock is old and in poor condition. Approximately 40 percent of existing buildings are pre-1929 "old law" or "new law" walk-up tenements.The heating systems in these buildings are generally inefficient, having outlived their useful life, and break down frequently. Although these systems could be replaced with the costs passed on to the tenants, many of these landlords are short of the necessary cash and operate their buildings on a shoestring. The buildings, usually in low-income neighborhoods, are not considered good risks for loans by banks and other lending institutions. Additionally, affected tenants, generally living at or below the poverty level, pay rents that consume 60 to 70 percent of their gross household income and could not possibly absorb any further increases.
Finally, most landlords, managing agents or superintendents have not had any technical training in how to efficiently operate building heating systems. A commonplace mid-winter scene in New York City is an overheated apartment with windows wide open pouring heat-energy dollars into the street. At the other extreme is the scene of a family with children huddling around a kitchen stove,, the only source of heat in an otherwise freezing apartment.
Landlords or employees responsible for maintaining residential building services should be required to take courses that teach the necessary skills to run those buildings. Low cost classes that provide this training are currently offered by, among others, the Apartment House Institute (affiliated with the New York Technical College) and the Cornell University (New York) County Extension Service. This training invariably results in significant fuel savings for the owner and improved living conditions for the tenants.
COMPLAINTS TO THE LANDLORD
Tenants suffering from a chronic lack of heat and hot water are advised to send a letter of complaint to their landlord by certified mail. The letter should document the history and extent of the problem, listing specific dates and details. Ideally, it should include a daily heat chart, listing days of inside and outside temperatures when heating violations occurred. The letter should also call attention to any previous tenant complaints regarding heat related problems and what, if anything, was done to correct them. Finally, tenants should request a response within a specific time, and indicate that they will take whatever administrative and legal actions are necessary if there is none.
CENTRAL COMPLAINTS AND EMERGENCY REPAIRS
HPD, Division of Code Enforcement, has a twenty four hour heat complaint telephone number -- the number is either 311 or 212-New-York (212-639-9675) for those with cell phones or otherwise unable to access 311. For the hearing impaired, the TTY number is (212) 504-4115. The Center is open 24-hours a day, seven-days a week.
More info is at:
Tenants should provide, if possible, the name, address and phone number of the landlord or managing agent. If the problem is building wide, tenants should organize and take turns making daily, multiple calls until an inspector visits the building.
The central complaints operator's job is to determine the nature and extent of the emergency condition reported and prioritize an inspection response which should take place within twenty-four to seventy-two hours. During the heating season, only heat and hot water complaints are inspected. Inspections are not provided for non- heat related hazardous conditions until the heating season is over, often months after the hazardous condition was first reported; and inspection, even then, is doubtful.
HPD depends on "owner compliance" as the preferred system for getting repairs made. Upon an inspector's report of emergency conditions, the Emergency Service Bureau attempts to reach the owner or the building agent to tell them to make the necessary repairs within a specified time. The agency claims that ninety percent of owners are reached and that seventy five percent live up to their agreement with HPD. However, there is no documented record of landlord compliance because reinspections are not routinely made. Confirmation that the work has been done is usually determined by oral or written responses that the bureau requests from tenants. This is a "hit or miss" system, at best. If the tenant does not write to indicate that repairs were not made, HPD deems the violation(s) corrected.
Where owners cannot be reached or have refused to take action to cure the emergency, HPD may send in its own in-house staff (Division of Maintenance) to do the work. If special skills are required, the bureau will engage an outside contractor (e.g., licensed plumber or licensed electrician). Uncooperative landlords who do not wish to be billed for emergency repairs by HPD, may deny access to the building or repair site to HPD workers or the hired contractor. After two unsuccessful attempts to gain entry, the emergency bureau may ask HPD's Housing Litigation Bureau (HLB) for assistance.The litigation bureau attorneys will bring pressure on the owner to grant access, and failing that, after a "declaration of emergency," seek an access warrant in Court. Records indicate that very few access warrants are requested or issued. In heat and hot water emergencies, where the outside temperature is below freezing, HPD staff or contractors are authorized to "break and enter" if necessary.
HPD may legally bill the owner for emergency repairs and, if payment is not forthcoming, place a lien on the building.
Tenants are also reminded that the Multiple Dwelling Law Section 302 allows tenants, whose landlord is responsible for heating but has failed to purchase fuel oil, to contract and pay for fuel delivery and deduct such payment from their rent. The tenants must make reasonable efforts to contact the landlord about the lack of fuel oil and then order from the usual supplier or another established supplier. In a building using natural gas heating, pursuant to Public Services Law Section 116, tenants may use the landlords account or establish a new one with the public utility company and pay the heating bill. Such payments are deductible from future rents.
Tenants may withhold rent if they are denied heat and hot water and expect to be sued by their landlord for non-payment in Housing Court. In answering, tenants should claim landlord's breach of the "Warranty of Habitability" and cite the specific denial of services as a defense. A court ordered inspection to confirm tenants defense should be requested, if an inspection is still appropriate. Tenants should also enter a counterclaim for rent abatements based on reduced services. As mentioned above, documentation of times, dates, and relevant temperatures on those dates will play a critical role as evidence to substantiate tenant claims.
Tenants could also sue the landlord for the necessary repairs or restoration of services by filing an Housing Part Action (HP) in Housing Court. Favorable results of such an action might include court ordered repairs, rent abatements, and if there is further landlord non-compliance, fines, contempt proceedings and occasionally, jail sentences.The HP Action is often the fastest and most effective procedure that tenants may employ for getting landlords to comply with the housing codes and is highly recommended. For greater detail please refer to the CTRC fact sheet, Housing Court Actions
COMPLAINTS TO THE DHCR
Rent stabilized or rent controlled tenants in addition to the actions taken above may, at the same time, file either form HHW-1 (individual tenants) or form RA-84 (building wide) with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). The DHCR is required to order an inspection of the subject building and upon confirmation of the tenant complaint may reduce the existing rent and freeze any further increases. Rents remain frozen until services are restored. The landlord must make a written request for reinstatement of rents. Tenants can challenge the request if, in fact, the landlords claim of restoration of services is not accurate. For a more thorough discussion, refer to CTRC fact sheet, Rent Reduction for Lack of Services.
Note: Most tenant activists believe filing a complaint with DHCR is futile at best. While the avenue exists, DHCR is essentially a landlord-protection racket and more likely than not, not the quickest solution for heat-related problems.
Because heat-related problems can become immediately hazardous to health and safety, the value of an organized tenancy cannot be overemphasized. The process of getting services restored may involve complex and extended legal negotiations with the landlord, city agencies and/or the courts. Such efforts are best carried out by a well organized tenant group. Tenants not able or not prepared to develop a self-organized group should seek the help and advice of a legal services provider, community housing organization, or a competent tenant attorney.
From a practical standpoint, a heat complaint should trigger an inspection from HPD. Of course, that is the whole point. But also be aware that while inspectors will be quick to tell you they cannot report violations on conditions other than heat, they are under instructions to look for certain specific things relating to fire safety and egress -- and you should be aware of this.
They check for:
1. That you have a second means of egress, often (but not always) an unencumbered fire escape, not blocked by anything on the fire escape, plants, furniture on the fire escape, air conditioners protruding and blocking fire escapes, etc., and only FDNY-approved window gates (the type that aren't locked with a padlock).
2. That you don't have a double-cylinder lock on your front door. These locks require a key on both sides of the door. In a fire you might be locked-in while looking for a key in the dark.
3. That you have an operating smoke alarm.
These are legal requirements AND good ideas. Anyone who has even been in a fire and who needed to quickly escape from a building will tell you this. So we urge you to make sure you're in compliance whether or not you need to make a heat-related complaint. But if an inspector reports any of these as a violation, the violation will go to your landlord who, in many cases, will try to blame you and take you to court. That's a headache you don't need. On the other hand, if the landlord caused any of these conditions, then you can/should complain about them.
HPD inspectors should also check for a) window guards and b) lead-paint hazards if you have young children. We're not sure if they always do this.
The above telephone numbers (311 or 212-NEW-YORK) should also be good for bad conditions other than heat, but since the budget cutbacks of the early 1990's, it's been virtually impossible to get inspections on other conditions unless ordered by Housing Court.
When an inspector comes, make sure you get his name and badge number and have him show his badge. You should be able to get copies of the resulting violations later from HPD, although there is often a lag time between the inspection and when it appears on their computer. And even if an inspector seems to be truly interested in your plight, be watchful that they don't have 'private' conversations with the super of landlord. It's been known to happen that some inpsectors are 'persuaded' to not write-up violations. One way is to document his/her visit with a neighbor witness, photos of the condition (for other than heat), a heat sheet documenting the inside and outside temperature. And be sure the inspector knows you will follow-up with HPD on getting a copy of the violation. Just ask the inspector how to get a copy - they all know.
DON’T FREEZE - ORGANIZE!
courtesy Met Council on Housing
The law requires your landlord provide heat and hot water at the following levels from October 1 through May 31:
From 6 am to 10 pm: If the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, the inside temperature must be at least 68 degrees everywhere in your apartment.
From 10 pm to 6 am: If the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees, the inside temperature must be at least 55 degrees everywhere in your apartment.
Hot water at a minimum 120 degrees at the tap must be provided 24 hours a day, year round.
IF YOUR LANDLORD DOES NOT MAINTAIN THOSE MINIMUM TEMPERATURES, you should:
Start an “HP action” in Housing Court. Ask for a court-ordered inspection and an Order to Correct.
Call the New York City Central Complaints Bureau at 311 immediately to record the landlord’s violation. Call repeatedly. An inspector should eventually come, although sometimes they don’t.
Get other tenants in your building to call Central Complaint. Everybody should call repeatedly, at least once every day the condition is not corrected.
Buy a good indoor/outdoor thermometer and keep a chart of the exact dates, times, and temperature readings, inside and out, so long as the condition is not corrected. The chart is your evidence.
Call the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal 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 restoring heat and hot water, and a reduction and freeze (pardon the expression!) in all the rents.
You’ll need a strong tenant association to force the landlord to provide heat and hot water. Write and call the landlord and demand repairs or fuel.
Prepare to go on rent strike — but get legal advice first.
THE HEAT LAWS ALSO PROVIDE FOR:
The city’s Emergency Repair Department to supply your heat if the landlord does not. (Try waiting for this one!)
$250 a day fine to the landlord for every day of violation. (But the Housing Court rarely imposes these fines, let alone collects them.)
$1,000 fine to the landlord if an automatic control device is put on the boiler to keep the temperature below the lawful minimum.
If your 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. But 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. You should get help and advice from a tenant organizer.
Because the heat and hot water laws are in the law books does not mean they are enforced by government. Don’t freeze to death waiting for the city or state to act. Organize!
NO SE QUEDE HELADO: ¡ORGANIZESE!
La ley requiere que su casero pro proporcion porcion porciona a
calefacción y agua caliente a las temperaturas siguientes, desde
el 1ro de octubre hasta el 31 de mayo:
Desde las 6 a.m. hasta las 10 p.m.: Si la temperatura afuera es de menos de 55 grados, la temperatura adentro debe ser al menos de 68 grados en todo el apartamento.
Desde las 10 p.m. hasta las 6 a.m.: Si la temperatura afuera es de menos de 40 grados, la temperatura adentro debe ser al menos de 55 grados en todo el apartamento.
Se tiene que proporcionar agua caliente a un mínimo de 120 grados en el grifo las 24 horas del día, todo el año.
SI SU CASERO NO MANTIENE ESTAS TEMPERATURAS MíNIMAS, USTED DEBE:
Comenzar una “Acción HP” (HP Action) en la Corte de Vivienda. Pida una inspección por orden de la corte y una Orden de Corrección (Order to Correct)
Llamar al Buro Central de Quejas (Central Control Bureau) de la ciudad de Nueva York al 311 inmediatamente, para documentar la violación del casero. Llame repetidamente. Se supone que un inspector vendrá eventualmente, aunque a veces no lo haga.
Exhortar a los otros inquilinos en el edificio a llamar al Central Complaint. Todos deben llamar repetidamente, al menos una vez al día, todos los días en que tengan problemas con la calefacción.
Comprar un buen termómetro para afuera y adentro, para documentar las fechas exactas, las horas, y las temperaturas, tanto afuera como adentro, mientras tenga problemas con la calefacción. Esta documentación es su evidencia
Llamar a la División de Vivienda y Renovación Comunal del Estado de Nueva York (DHCR, por sus siglas en ingles) al (718) 739-6400, y pedir que le envíen el formulario de Queja de Calefacción y Agua Caliente. Llene el formulario y consigue la participación de todos los inquilinos en su edificio que pueden firmarlo. Reclame una orden para restaurar la calefacción y el agua caliente, y que se reduzcan y congelen (¡disculpe lo de “congelen”!) todas las rentas.
Necesitarán una fuerte asociación de inquilinos para obligar al casero a proporcionar calefacción y agua caliente. Escriban y llamen al casero para demandar reparaciones y aceite. Prepárense para una huelga de renta (sobre todo con asesoría legal)—de relámpago si es necesario.
LAS LEYES SOBRE LA CALEFACCIóN ESTABLECEN TAMBIéN:
Que el Departamento de Reparaciones de Emergencia de la ciudad le proporcione la calefacción si el casero no lo hace. (No se siente en un bloque de hielo—otra vez, ¡disculpe! mientras espere que lo haga.)
Una multa de $250 al casero por cada día que se produzca la violación. (Pero la verdad es que la Corte de Vivienda raras veces impone las multas, y menos aun las cobra).
Una multa de $1,000 al casero si algún aparato de control automático se instala en la caldera para mantener la temperatura por debajo del mínimo legal.
Si el tanque de combustible de la caldera está vacío, los inquilinos tienen el derecho de comprar su propio combustible después de haber pasado 24 horas sin calefacción y también sin obtener ninguna respuesta del casero. Esto no se aplica si la caldera está rota y necesita tanto reparación como combustible.
CUIDADO! ¡proteja su dinero! Si los inquilinos deciden comprar el combustible, hay que seguir los procedimientos legales cuidadosamente. Consiga la ayuda y el consejo de un organizador de inquilinos. La existencia de leyes de calefacción y agua caliente vigentes no garantiza que el gobierno las implemente. No se quede helado por esperar que la ciudad o el estado actúe. ¡Organízese!
IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WITH HEAT IN YOUR BUILDING
from Met Council
1. Use the form below to record the inside and outside temperature. Call the Weather Bureau at (212) 976-1212 to get the official outside temperature. Use a thermometer to take the temperature inside your apartment.
2.Call the Central Complaint Bureau at 311 or 212-NEW-YORK to register your complaint. You should call each day you have a heating problem. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
3.Write and call your landlord. Send letters by certified mail, return receipt requested and keep a copy of the letter. Keep a list of each date and time you called your landlord to complain.
4.Consider organizing a tenant's association and filing an HP Action against your landlord in Housing Court. If you live in a rent regulated apartment, consider filing a complaint with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.
Sample Heat Record
Date: Time: Outside Temp Inside Temp Initials
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Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
activists and is not considered legal advice.