I just moved into an apartment, which I discovered has an air conditioning unit that doubles as a heater. It runs on electricity. Does that mean I am paying for my heat? Or is my landlord supposed to pay for it?
Landlords are required by New York City law to provide heat and hot water, but the person responsible for paying depends on the type of building you are renting in, according to our experts.
New Yorkers living in prewar apartments often have to deal with old, noisy, and hard-to-control steam radiators—heat there is generally covered by the rent. Those in new developments are usually able to set their own thermostat—but typically pay for their own heat, a scenario that occurs when a building has electric heat.
"Many newer buildings have individual heating units, and the heat is metered and paid for by the tenant," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (FYI, a Brick sponsor). He says renters should check their lease—that's where who pays for the heat will be spelled out.
"If the lease is silent on the issue, in my opinion, it would be the landlord’s obligation to pay," he says.
Still electric heat in NYC is pretty rare, says Adam Frisch, senior managing director of leasing at Lee & Associates, a management company representing small building owners in Manhattan.
"If a tenant is paying directly for heat, that implies a separate meter," he says. He says he's aware of one walk-up building in Chelsea that has electric heat paid for by its renters, and the landlord offers a credit to tenants to reimburse them.
"Almost no buildings would require a tenant to pay for gas heat unless it is a loft with live/work status," Frisch says.
But he offers this reality check: "In a sense you do still pay for heat out of your rent" even in a gas-heated building, he says, since your rent goes toward building expenses. And higher heating costs can result in an owner raising the rent at renewal time.
If your lease does not specify who pays for heat—and your landlord refuses to pay for it—you can file a complaint with 311.
Heat season, which lasts from October 1st to May 31st, is now underway, and during this time, if the outdoor temperature drops below 55 degrees during the day (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.), your landlord has to turn up the heat so your apartment is at least 68 degrees. At night, the temperature inside your apartment must be at least 62 degrees, regardless of the temperature outside.
If your landlord is failing to abide by this, you should report the issue to the city. For more information, read Brick Underground's comprehensive guide to heating for renters.
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