What You Need to Know about NYC Heat Law Requirements
The beginning of New York City’s eight-month-long “heat season” is coming soon, and owners must comply with the temperature requirements in NYC heat laws during the colder months. During heat season, HPD responds to all heat and hot water complaints and, if adequate heat and hot water conditions aren’t corrected, HPD will impose penalties and may contract with private companies under the Emergency Repair Program to restore services to residents. The upcoming 2023–2024 heat season begins on Oct. 1 and continues through May 31, 2024. As heat season begins and colder weather is around the corner, owners must be aware of the temperature requirements for all apartments.
Heat and Hot Water Requirements
Heat and hot water are essential services that all owners must provide and maintain, especially during the winter season. Building owners are legally required to provide heat and hot water to their tenants. Hot water must be provided 365 days per year at a constant minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat must be provided between Oct. 1 and May 31—“heat season”—under the following conditions:
Day. Between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., if the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, the inside temperature is required to be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit; and
Night. Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the inside temperature is required to be at least 62 degrees Fahrenheit.
HPD’s Response to Heat and Hot Water Complaints
If a tenant files a 311 complaint related to heat or hot water, HPD attempts to notify the building owner or managing agent and may also attempt to contact the tenant to see whether service has been restored. According to HPD, there were 223,733 heat complaints during the previous heat season.
If service hasn’t been restored, an HPD inspector will go to the building to verify the complaint and issue the appropriate violation. If an owner fails to restore heat and hot water after receiving a violation, HPD’s Emergency Repair Program (ERP) may contract with private companies to restore essential services and bill the owner for the cost of the repairs, plus related fees. The city is subject to laws governing procurement, contracting, and wages that may make such work significantly more expensive than the price owners could obtain themselves. If the property owner fails to pay, the city will file a tax lien against the property. The tax lien will bear interest and may be sold and/or foreclosed to collect the amount owed through the city’s Tax Lien Sale.
Penalties and Fees
HPD typically starts a court proceeding for all issued heat violations and some hot water violations. The agency can seek the following penalties, effective on the posting date of the Notice of Violation until the date that the violation is corrected:
- $250–$500 per day for each initial heat or hot water violation; and
- $500–$1,000 per day for each subsequent violation at the same building that occurs within two consecutive calendar years, or, in the case of HMC §27-2029(a), during two consecutive periods of Oct. 1 through May 31 (heat).
If the owner fails to pay the court-ordered civil penalties, HPD will enter a judgment against the owner and the property and seek to enforce that judgment.
Eligibility for Payment in Satisfaction of Civil Penalties
Heat and hot water violations must be resolved immediately, and self-certified via mail or eCertification. Some owners may be eligible to satisfy the penalty by submitting a $250 payment with a timely Notice of Correction. The Notice of Violation will clearly indicate whether the violation is eligible for payment in satisfaction of civil penalties, based on whether the heat violation is the first such violation of the current or prior heat season, or the hot water violation is the first such violation of the current or previous calendar year. An owner who chooses to submit a Notice of Correction and payment in satisfaction may do so by mail or by using eCertification.
The condition must be fixed within 24 hours of the violation posting (the same as the inspection date), and the $250 payment must be made within 10 days. Payment can be made via credit card or debit card (there’s a 2.49 percent convenience fee for credit cards), or by certified check or money order. If the Notice of Correction and payment aren’t received within the 10-day period, HPD may pursue an order to correct and civil penalties in Housing Court.
HPD will charge a $200 fee for all inspections after the first two, if they result in a heat violation within the same heat season or a hot water violation within a calendar year. This fee is in addition to any civil penalties that may be imposed by the Housing Court. This fee isn’t paid directly to HPD, but will be billed to the owner though the Department of Finance on the quarterly bill following the inspection. All unpaid fees become a debt owed by the owner and a lien upon the premises. The tax lien will bear interest and may be sold and/or foreclosed to collect the amount owed through the city’s Tax Lien Sale.
Rent Reductions in Rent-Regulated Units
In addition to HPD penalties and fees, the DHCR is authorized to reduce the rent of any rent-regulated apartment in New York City when required heat and hot water services are not maintained. Tenants may file a “Tenant’s Application for Rent Reduction based upon the Owners Failure to Provide and Maintain Heat and/or Hot Water Service(s)” [DHCR Form HHW-1]. If more than one tenant wishes to file a complaint, the tenants must attach a schedule to the HHW-1 form or file “Statement of Complaint of Decrease in Building-Wide Services” [DHCR Form RA-84].
Applications based on lack of adequate heat or hot water must be accompanied by a report from the appropriate city agency finding such lack of adequate heat or hot water. If the DHCR finds that the owner failed to provide adequate heat or hot water, it will order a rent reduction for rent-stabilized apartments and may order one for rent-controlled apartments, and the owner will be prohibited from collecting any additional rent increases until the service is restored. It’s important to note that if a tenant receives a rent reduction from the DHCR and receives another abatement or a rent credit because of the same conditions, the tenant cannot get both benefits at the same time.
Share Space Heater Safety Tips with Tenants
In the wake of the 2022 Bronx apartment fire started by a defective space heater, the New York City Council proposed a series of bills intended to strengthen fire safety rules in the city. One proposed bill sought to increase the minimum temperatures during heat season. This bill did not pass, and was laid over in committee, but it brought attention to the fact that 68 degrees can still be too cold for some of your tenants.
Tenants who find 68 degrees to be too cold may consider plugging in electric space heaters to sufficiently heat their apartments. This brings with it the increased threat of fires due to the improper use of electric space heaters. Another proposed bill, which did pass and become Local Law 64 of 2022, relates to the sale of certain electric space heaters in the city. LL64 prohibits the sale of electric space heaters unless they’re equipped with thermostats and an automatic function that disables the space heater if it overheats or tips over, and requires that they be approved for use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. However, this law pertains only to the current sale of space heaters and not space heaters your tenants may have bought in previous years.
To keep your residents safe this upcoming winter, it's a good idea to share with them a few safety guidelines for using space heaters. Include these tips in your in a resident memo and on common area bulletin boards. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following space heater safety tips:
- Make sure that the heater is placed on a level, hard, and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.
- Keep the heater at least 3 feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- To reduce the risk of fire, never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
- Never leave a space heater unattended; turn it off if you leave the area.
- Never use extension cords to power electric heaters.
- Use only a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, and that’s equipped with automatic safety switches that turn off if the unit is tipped over accidentally.