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What can I do about my apartment's dangerously hot radiator?

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Question:

I have a radiator and a heating pole in my apartment that get incredibly hot, and I've even burned myself a couple of times. (My roommates and I have nicknamed it "the pole of death.") Is it really legal or safe for my building to have such hot radiators in the apartments without any kind of cover? Isn't this a safety hazard and/or health risk?

Answer:

While your scalding hot radiator is perfectly legal (and indeed, quite a common phenomenon in New York apartments), there are steps you can take to keep yourself from getting burned again, say our experts.

First up, keep in mind that the New York State court of appeals has definitively ruled that an overheated radiator doesn't constitute some kind of negligence or the creation of hazardous conditions on the part of your landlord, nor are they required to provide you with a cover. 

And while you and your roommates wouldn't be covered if you injure yourselves on a radiator or steam pole, the personal liability portion of your renter's insurance will cover you if a guest ever burns themselves and files a lawsuit, says Jeff Schneider, president of Gotham Brokerage.

As for protecting yourself from future run-ins, as we've written previously, one option is to install a valve device on your radiator, which allows you to better control the temperature. Between the valve and paying someone to install it, expect to spend a few hundred dollars if you go this route.

You can also simply cover them up. Apartment Therapy has a guide to a DIY cover for steam poles here, and most home supply stores sell pole wraps, such as these options from Lowes. As for the radiators, you can opt for custom wood or metal options from companies like Knossos CabinetryGothic and Blinds & Beyond, which will also cost a few hundred dollars, or if you want to go the cheaper route, opt for a cloth cover, such as this under-$50 option. 

While it might not seem fair, if you want to avoid another injury from a scalding pipe or radiator, the onus for fixing the problem is on you.

 

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