New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero today reminded residential building owners of their legal obligation to provide tenants with hot water year-round and heat when the outdoor temperature warrants it.
The 2009/2010 “heat season” begins today and continues through May 31, 2010. During heat season, residential owners with tenants are required by law to maintain an indoor temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit between 6:00 A.M. and 10:00 P.M. when the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees. Between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M., building owners must maintain an indoor temperature of 55 degrees when the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees. Hot water is required to be maintained at 120 degrees.
“We want to be sure New Yorkers know their rights and that landlords understand that it’s their job to provide adequate heat for their tenants during the coldest months of the year – it’s not a suggestion, it’s the law,” said Commissioner Cestero. “Most landlords want to do the right thing and that’s why we provide the educational tools and assistance to help them comply with heat season regulations, and in those cases where they don’t take action, HPD will step in to ensure that the problem is addressed.”
In the event of a heat deficiency, a tenant should first attempt to notify the building owner, managing agent or superintendent. If heat is not restored, the tenant should call the City’s Citizen Service Center at 311 which is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The City’s Citizen Service Center can also receive complaints from hearing-impaired tenants via a Touchtone Device for the Deaf TDD at 212-504-4115.
During the 2008/2009 heat season, 248,147 heat and hot water problems were reported to the City through 311. When an operator receives a complaint, HPD staff attempts to contact the building’s owner or managing agent to get heat or hot water service restored. Before an HPD code inspector is dispatched to the building, HPD will call the tenant back to determine whether service has been restored. If service has not been restored, an HPD inspector is sent to the building to verify the complaint and, if warranted, issue a violation.
In cases where private owners fail to restore heat and hot water, or when HPD is unable to reach owners, HPD’s Emergency Repair Program (ERP) may use in-house staff and private contractors to make the necessary repairs to restore essential services. The cost of the emergency repairs is billed to the private owner and becomes a tax lien on the property if not paid. The City’s Emergency Repair Program is by far the most extensive in the nation.
HPD also may initiate legal action against properties issued heat violations. In January 2004, Mayor Bloomberg signed legislation that increased the civil penalty range for heat and hot water violations from $250 to a maximum of $500 per day for first violations. Further, the bill established a new penalty structure for subsequent violations at the same location, within the same calendar year, with penalties ranging from $500 to $1000 per day. This was the first increase in penalties in over 20 years. Owners who incur multiple heat violations are subject to litigation seeking maximum litigation penalties and to continued scrutiny on heat and other code deficiencies. Last heat season, HPD filed 4, 016 heat cases and collected $2,244,260 in fines. Owners may also be required to attend a training on proper heating plant operations and how to responsibly reduce heating expenses while maintaining adequate heat services.
Information on heat season is also available on the HPD web site here. As part of HPD’s commitment to providing information to non-English speaking New Yorkers, HPD has produced magnets with heat season requirements in twelve different languages. The magnets can be picked up at HPD’s Division of Code Enforcement borough offices listed below:
Manhattan: 94 Old Broadway, 7th Floor, Phone: 212-234-2531
Bronx: 1932 Arthur Avenue, Phone: 718-579-6790
Brooklyn: 701 Euclid Avenue, Phone: 718-827-1942 or 210 Joralemon Street, Room 806, Phone: 718-802-3662
Queens: 120-55 Queens Blvd (Borough Hall), First Floor, Phone: 718-286-0800
Staten Island: Staten Island Borough Hall, Phone: 718-816-2340
HPD also works with building owners who want to improve the management of their buildings or need assistance with improving their heating systems. HPD’s Housing Education Program offers courses for owners, managing agents, and superintendents on the provision of heat and hot water. Interested parties may register here or by calling 311 and may also watch HPD’s video “Heat and Hot Water in Residential Buildings” on-line here or order it at no cost through HPD’s Owner Services Program by calling 311. HPD will also be releasing an e-learning class through it’s website on Heat and Hot water regulations, HPD’s processes and heating system maintenance.
About the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)
HPD’s mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers. It is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to build and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing, HPD also actively promotes the preservation of affordable housing through education, outreach, loan programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. For more information lease go here.