October 3, 2016
As New York’s “heat season” begins, the City reminds tenants of their rights and to call 311, visit 311 online or use 311Mobile to register all heat and hot water complaints
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been remind residential building owners of their legal obligation to provide tenants with hot water year-round and heat when the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees during the day and below 40 degrees at night during the “heat season.”
The 2016-2017 “heat season” began on Saturday, October 1, and continues through May 31, 2017.
“Heat and hot water are a necessity not a luxury – and landlords are required by law to provide both. Property owners who fail to provide these basics put New York families in harm’s way,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I urge anyone who is suffering in the cold or without hot water to call or log into 311.”
“By law, building owners must provide tenants heat and hot water during the cold winter months. It is important for tenants to know their rights and report any problems to HPD through NYC 311,” said HPD Commissioner Vicki Been. “While most landlords uphold the law and follow the City’s housing codes, those who don’t will be held accountable as HPD will use all of its enforcement tools to ensure tenants’ rights and safety.”
The law requires that from October 1 to May 31:
It is legally required that hot water is maintained at 120 degrees year-round.
Information for tenants:
If an apartment lacks appropriate heat, a tenant should first attempt to notify the building owner, managing agent or superintendent. If heat is not restored, the tenant should register an official complaint via 311. Tenants can call 311, the City’s central 24-hours-per-day, seven-days-a-week information and complaint line or file complaints via 311 online at www.nyc.gov/311. Hearing-impaired tenants can register complaints via a Touchtone Device for the Deaf TDD at (212) 504-4115.
Tenants can now also file heat and hot water complaints easily from their Android or iPhone using 311MOBILE. Once the 311 mobile app is downloaded, the tenant simply opens the app and selects “Make a Complaint” from the main menu. Tenants can then select “Heat or Hot Water” from the complaint menu. The app will identify the customer’s location and list the address as the complaint location. Once the customer confirms the address, he or she may select the type of condition – i.e. no heat, no hot water or both – and indicate if one unit or the whole building is affected.
Another resource is the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which helps low-income homeowners and renters pay for utility and heating bills. If a tenant or homeowner has received an electric, gas or heating disconnect notice, he or she can apply for emergency financial assistance. Tenants and homeowners may also qualify for assistance if they have a low supply of heating fuel or a broken boiler or furnace. HEAP is a seasonal program. Applications for the 2016-2017 season are expected to be available in mid-November.
The Tenant Support Unit's team of specialists knocked on 53,471 doors from Oct 1, 2015 – May 31, 2016.
Besides 311, the City's Tenant Support Unit proactively conducts outreach in buildings across the city and connects tenants whose landlords are not providing heat and hot water with legal services and registers complaints with 311, so HPDs team of inspectors can take appropriate action.
How the system works:
When the complaint is received, HPD attempts to contact the building's owner or managing agent to have heat or hot water service restored. The purpose of this call is to encourage the owner to restore heat and hot water as quickly as possible. HPD will then call the tenant back to determine if service has been restored. If the tenant indicates that service has not been restored, an HPD code inspector is sent to the building to verify the complaint and, if it is warranted, will issue a violation.
If HPD receives multiple heat complaints from the same building, the inspector will attempt to inspect the first apartment that calls in a complaint. If the inspector observes that heat is not adequate in that apartment, a violation will be issued for the building. Inspectors will not attempt to inspect every apartment in the building that called in a duplicate heat complaint. If the inspector cannot access the first apartment, inspections are attempted at other apartments that registered duplicate complaints. If inspectors cannot access any apartments that registered complaint, they will also knock on doors of apartments that did not call in heat complaints to request access to perform a heat inspection.
HPD’s team of inspectors work in shifts and are situated in offices across the five boroughs to provide coverage 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If the city experiences a significant weather event such as prolonged periods of below-freezing temperatures, the agency will deploy additional inspectors and maintenance staff, sometimes doubling the normal number of inspectors on duty to help respond to complaints and emergencies.
If a violation is issued for lack of heat, it is an owner’s responsibility to comply with the violation and restore heat and hot water service. There are four potential outcomes for a property that receives a violation:
Emergency Repair: 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 private contractors to make the necessary repairs to restore essential services. The cost of the emergency repairs, plus administrative fees, is billed to the owner and becomes a tax lien on the property if not paid.
The City's ERP is by far the most extensive in the nation, spending more than $3.7 million to ensure heat and hot water during Fiscal Year 2016, which includes $2.7 million spent within the 2015-2016 “heat season” in over 1,200 buildings.
Civil penalties: HPD’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) also initiates legal action against properties that are issued heat violations. HLD filed more than 3,151 cases in the 2015-2016 “heat season” and has already recouped more than $1,691,617 in civil penalties related to those cases.
Subsequent violations at the same location, within the same calendar year, are subject to penalties ranging from $500 to $1000 per day.
Almost half of the heat violations issued last “heat season” were issued to properties which had no heat violations within the same or previous “heat season.” Paying this fee will satisfy the civil penalty without the landlord having to appear in Housing Court.
Inspection fees: HPD imposes a fee of $200 per inspection if it has to perform three or more inspections at the same location, within the same “heat season” for heat violations or calendar year for hot water violations. Failure to pay will result in the City filing a tax lien against the property.
During the 2015-2016 “heat season,” HPD billed for $148,800 in inspection fees.
Enhanced enforcement: HPD monitors buildings that repeatedly fail to provide heat and hot water. During the 2015-2016 “heat season,” HPD’s Division of Neighborhood Preservation surveyed almost a hundred buildings, and referred half of those properties for additional enforcement action, which may result in inspections, fees and litigation.
For more information visit the Heat and Hot Water link on HPD website at: www.nyc.gov/hpd
During the 2015/2016 “heat season” (October 1, 2015 – May 31, 2016):
Top Community Board In Each Borough for Primary Heat/Hot Water Complaints
Information on “heat season” is also available on the HPD website at www.nyc.gov/hpd.
HPD also works with building owners who want to improve the management of their buildings or need assistance with improving their heating systems. Through the Green Housing Preservation Program (GHPP), owners of small- and mid-size buildings can seek low- or no-interest loans to finance energy efficiency and water conservation improvements along with moderate rehabilitation work. Building owners and managers can access HPD’s e-learning course online at www.nyc.gov/hpd to learn about heat and hot water regulations, HPD’s processes and heating system maintenance.