For many, moving to New York City is a dream come true. Don't let that dream become a nightmare for you. Renting an apartment with the right amenities can determine what your narrative will be. And knowing your rights as a tenant (e.g., with regard to the NYC Heat Laws) is one way to ensure you do not have a nightmarish experience.
Your rights as a tenant include the right to fair housing, limited upfront payment, and a safe and secure home. Having access to heat and hot water in the winter is not a luxury, it's one of your rights as a renter according to the NYC Heat Laws.
As per the NYC heat regulation, your property manager is expected to provide heat and water for you as a tenant. Unfortunately, you may not be able to tell at the beginning whether or not a property manager will abide by the rental laws. Therefore, it helps to know what to expect and what to do if those expectations are not met.
As a renter, you have a right to a safe and well-managed home. Every NYC property manager is required, by law, to provide you with the basic amenities to ensure this right. According to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, tenants have the right to heating and hot water under the NYC Heat Laws. Owners and property managers are required to ensure you have access to hot water in your apartment all year round.
Other basic amenities include smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, pest-free properties, lead-free walls, paint or wallpaper on the walls, windows, lighting, window guards, a lockable front door with a peephole, access to a mailing service, etc.
Apart from hot water in your apartment, owners and property managers are expected to provide heat during the winter season, according to NYC heat laws. It is known as the heating season and lasts from October 1st to May 31st. Unfortunately, many property managers violate this NYC heat regulation. In 2019 for example, the HPD processed over 3,000 NYC heat complaints. It was even more in 2018.
NYC heat regulations state that, between 6am and 10pm, the temperature inside your home should be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the temperature outside drops below 55 degrees. At night (between 10pm and 6am), the inside temperature is expected to be at least 62 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your first point of call should be to reach out to your property managers. Your lease should specify the process for reporting damages or emergencies. Reach out to your property manager as specified in your contract and keep a log of every time you contact them. According to NYC Heat Laws, your property manager is required to fix the heat within 24 hours of receiving the report.
If the property manager does not address the report immediately, tenants can call 311 to make their NYC heat complaints. You can initiate an HP proceeding against your property manager to compel them to make the necessary repairs. Essentially, the HP proceeding is a court case initiated by a tenant against their property manager to get an order for repairs or to fix any pending issues between the property manager and the tenant.
Technically, you can withhold your rent, or at least some part of it, if the property manager refuses to provide you with heat. However, this option must be explored with caution. The property manager can sue you for non or partial payment of rent. Sure, you can file a countersuit against your property manager for breaching the warrant of habitability based on the NYC Heat Laws, but then the court will have to order a rent abatement.
The amount will vary, and in some cases, the renter may still have to pay all. Thus, you should only use this as your last resort, or if you're prepared to pay the full amount as ordered by the judge. It's also wise to do this under the advisement of legal counsel. Otherwise, you may be evicted for nonpayment of rent.
The NYC heat regulation states that it has to be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit inside when the temperature drops below a certain level, but this might still be too cold for some people. For extra heat inside your apartment, you might want to consider investing in an electric space heater. However, you should only use this after all necessary fire precautions have been taken.
If, on the other hand, it gets too hot in your apartment, consider getting a thermostatic radiator valve. This can help regulate the amount of heat that comes from your radiators.
Just be aware that, in both cases, you may need to reach an agreement with your property manager before going ahead.
Knowing your rights as a tenant is important when it comes to defending them. The NYC Heat Laws have been put in place to protect you, especially during the cold winter months. Property managers are expected to provide hot water to your home all year round, and also to maintain specific heat levels during the winter. Should they fail to do so, you can call 311 to make a complaint or initiate an HP proceeding. You must take advantage of these fallbacks to ensure that your property manager observes your basic rights as a renter.