NYC Heat Law: Know Your Rights

Written by Cate Carrejo
Updated 12/16/2019

If you've ever lived in an apartment that can feel as bitterly cold inside as the New York winter does outside, you've probably wondered what the heat laws are in New York City. The city has legal protections in place for renters to protect them from being exposed to the elements, including strict regulations about how your landlord or building manager must heat your building. Read on to learn more about the NYC Heat Law and your rights as a tenant.

What is heat season?

The NYC Heat Law mandates that building owners provide heat and hot water to tenants during heat season. Heat Season officially starts on October 1st every year, but that doesn’t automatically mean the heat starts blasting that same day. 

Landlords are only required to heat the whole building if:

  • Outside temperature drops below 55 degrees during the day (6:00 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

Landlords are also required to heat your individual apartment to:

  • At least 68 degrees if the outside temperature drops below 55 degrees during the day (6:00 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

  • At least 62 degrees, regardless of outside temperature, at night

Those rules remain in effect until May 31st, which may seem late in the year to keep the heat on, but temperatures can still be dangerously cold going into June. Average temperatures can still be well below the required 55 degrees on evenings in May. According to the NYC Heat Law, your landlord is required to keep the heat on. So if your landlord or management company decides to turn off the heat just because of a few warm days, make sure to contact them to make a complaint.

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What To Do If You’re Not Getting Heat

If you need to file a heat complaint against your building manager, you’re not alone. In 2018, there were 377,732 complaints filed with the city agency that administers the building code, Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). As the weather gets colder every year, a lack of heat can be extremely dangerous. Take the following steps to fix the problem.

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1. Ask your landlord to turn on the heat

Your landlord is required to heat your building during certain times and at certain temperatures throughout Heat Season. Contact your landlord or building manager to let them know if your apartment is uncomfortably (and possibly, dangerously) cool. Building repairs may have to be performed to get the heat up and running as soon as possible.

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2. Document the lack of heat in your apartment

When Heat Season approaches, head off any problems by making sure you have a thermometer ready, just in case. Independently verify the temperature in your apartment before you take action by using an indoor thermometer. Take pictures of the thermometer with the temperature, dates, and times clearly visible. This will help you build your case against your landlord if they continue to be unresponsive to your requests.

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Want to take action?

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If sending a letter of complaint doesn’t work, use our tool to walk through the steps to take legal action against your landlord in Housing Court.

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3. If your landlord doesn’t act, file a complaint

Once you’ve built your case with this documentation, call 311 any day and any time (it functions 24/7) or go to nyc.gov/311 to officially file your complaint.

After receiving your complaint and a written violation from HPD, your landlord has 24 hours to fix the temperature, or you’re legally entitled to withhold your rent payment.

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