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Unable To Effectively Heat Apartment

NYC Rent Regulation: Rent Control/Rent Stabilized, DHCR Practice/Procedures

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Unable To Effectively Heat Apartment

Postby phnord » Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:04 am

I just moved into a rent stabilized apartment, and the week I did is when the temperatures dropped into the 30s

The apartment has the tenants paying for all gas & electricity

The heat is central air. Two of the bedrooms are in the basement. The other two bedrooms have 50+ square inches of window space.

When I set the thermostat to 75º, the basement rooms never read above 55º. The upstairs bedrooms will briefly reach that temperature, but then quickly drop to 65º as soon as the thermostat thinks the house is warm enough.

I'm not quite sure what to do about this. Using electric heaters will cost a fortune each month, and there's no guarantees it will even work. But the heating system the landlord has installed cannot possibly heat up all of the bedrooms to livable temperatures.

I know landlords have a responsibility to provide 68º heat during the day and 62º at night. I'm not sure how this responsibility plays when tenants are responsible for paying the gas
& electric bills, and the heating system the landlord has installed is not sufficient?

What recourses do I have here?
phnord
 
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Re: Unable To Effectively Heat Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:55 am

When you say tenants are paying for gas and electricity, do you mean just cooking gas? If so, that's normal in NYC. If you mean gas for heat, then that's not normal and not permitted. Cooking gas (Con Ed/Nat'l Grid) is not the same as heating oil or gas for the building's heat.

LLs are required to provide heat and hot water. The Housing Maintenance Code requires -- unless the LL obtains a waiver -- central heat. See HMC 27-2038 http://tenant.net/Other_Laws/HMC/sub2/art8.html

When you say 2 bedrooms are in the basement, do you mean basement or cellar?
See this page for definition and to see if basement/cellar occupanyc is even legal in your case. http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/owners/bas ... ellar.page

I assume you know the heat regs for NYC, but see that and additional information in the Heat thread in this forum's reference section.

First, you document what is happening. Keep a heat sheet. Contact the LL (cert. mail) and call 311. As you're now RS, don't let the LL intimidate you. See if other tenants are experiencing the same thing. If so, then tenants will have more power in dealing with this. Keep all copies and documentation.

Call for an inspector with 311. Make a complaint in the 311 website, but also call them, and do so every day. Get the 311 reference numbers. Don't expect a lot from 311 - you do this for documentation.

You say you know about the heating system the LL has installed? What do you know about it? Do you have access to the boiler room? Try to do that first as the LL will lock it up soon. Take as many photos of the boiler/burner and find out make/model numbers, in order to find out the BTU output.

You can look at the permits listed on the DOB website as to details on the heating system installation. Do your homework so you can prove the heating system is inadequate.

Does the LL provide sufficient oil/gas to the system?

And look here - it might help: http://utilityproject.org/
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Re: Unable To Effectively Heat Apartment

Postby phnord » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:05 am

@TenantNet –

The boiler is in the apartment itself, in a closet next to one of the bedrooms

The basement is debatably on the cusp between basement and cellar, which is to say *possibly* half of the story is above ground, but it's hard to be precise.

It's very likely that the two basement rooms are not legally able to be considered bedrooms; the landlord wouldn't put up doors for us, likely for that reason, for said bedrooms. Basically, the basement is a single, undivided space, with an area in the front and an area in the back that are being rented as bedrooms.

That was something we understood going into this, but given the cost, location, space, remodeling, etc. etc. it's something we're willing to put up with.

This heating issue, though, is a real problem.

The lease has a section in it that says:

11. Services: The following services and utilities are the responsibility of:

Owner ( ) Heat ( ) Hot Water ( ) Gas ( ) Electricity
Renter (•) Heat (•) Hot Water (•) Gas (•) Electricity

Two of the roommates signed the lease (myself included); the other two have yet to do so

I recognize that in many ways these are things that we might have foreseen as issues; although I had no idea that the heating would be so poor, I wish I'd had the forethought to recognize this in advance

At this point, we signed a December 2017 – November 2018 lease

I'm not sure where to go from here. I think it might look something like bringing to the landlord's attention that this situation is not only illegal, and the heat in specific is not only illegal but uninhabitable...

... and then insisting that he cover the costs to make the heat tolerable – whether that looks like covering our electric so that we can use space heaters, or installing a heating and insulation system that gets the bedrooms up to 68º - if he wants to keep us as tenants?

Is that a reasonable way to go here?

The landlord seems like a reasonable person, and if I approach this gently but firmly, I think I could make headway
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Re: Unable To Effectively Heat Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:38 am

If the boiler is within the unit, then that's probably illegal if there is no waiver from HPD. Is it the boiler for the building, or just for the apartment? You can ask HPD for a copy of any waiver they might have issued.

It's possible the basement/cellar occupancy is illegal, and for good reason - light, air, egress and possible air contamination from fuel or building items. It's for mostly safety reasons, but should not be dismissed.

You should do some research into the history of the basement rooms. Did the LL add them to the apartment at some late date? Is the building 6 or less units without them? Usually LLs are trying to get around one or more regulations when doing something like this.

I don't think the LL can legally require the tenant to pay for heat and hot water, no matter what the lease might say.

And BTW, if he's skirting these regs, is the boiler installation approved and signed off by the Dept. of Buildings? It might be illegal in that way as well.

I would get second opinions on what I've said in this thread. Make sure you verify things before you confront the LL.

Some LLs are just stupid; others are out to screw tenants.
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Re: Unable To Effectively Heat Apartment

Postby phnord » Sun Dec 17, 2017 4:17 pm

It's the boiler for the apartment. The apartment actually has two separate boilers in it – one that's hooked up to the thermostat for heat, and one that's a hot-water-heater installed behind the fridge.

How would I go about requesting said Waiver?

There is a lot of light in the basement with the way the windows are setup. Both rooms have exits of their own (one to the street, the other to the backyard) as well as being able to go up the stairs to the first floor and exit there, so I'm not concerned about egress. Air contamination... not so sure about that one, but I can say that the carbon monoxide detectors down there seem to be doing okay?

I think the building is 6 units exactly, and most of them (all of them?) are duplexs?

The way the basement is setup, it feels like it was a large office space before they decided to sell it as a 4-bedroom. There's a lot of ethernet hookups in one room – a whole panel of them - and the way that the recessed ceiling lights are configured... it gives that vibe

I have no idea about boiler installation / approval

Where would you suggest I seek second opinions?

Fwiw, this landlord seems like a company. He met with us in his office, which is run and staffed by a group of hassidic jewish people. My point being, this isn't a lone landlord, but a building / management company

Also, they've been very reasonable about addressing maintenance requests thus far; there were a number of things, and they were happy to take care of them for us
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Re: Unable To Effectively Heat Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Sun Dec 17, 2017 4:48 pm

You don't get the waiver ... the LL must get a waiver in order to install non-central heat. Read the HMC statute again. If he doesn't have a waiver, chances are it's illegal. I would consult with an architect or engineer as to the technical details and agency procedures.

If it was office space, then investigate if the building has a Certificate of Occupancy that specifies residential. http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/bispi00.jsp

Search by address or block/lot numbers. Then you can choose to view the certificate of occupancy if any.

For legal opinions, I would check with a tenant attorney ... look on the home page of TenantNet. Several attorneys advertise here.

Look, this might be OK except for the heat, but it sounds like there's a lot of illegality going on. That's your call. You can't call them reasonable if you can't heat the place, and then they make you pay for it.
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