Don’t Be Left in the Cold: Know If Your Building Has Heat Problems

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January 31, 2019

The temperature this week is expected to dip into the single digits. While it will be freezing outside, for too many New Yorkers, it will be freezing inside as well.

If you’re concerned about the lack of heat in your building, be sure to check your address at Localize.city and see if your building has chronic problems. The website shows the housing violation history for every address, including whether heat and hot water violations are currently open or caused problems in the recent past. This is valuable info when speaking with your landlord or when trying to build a case to enlist the city’s help if your landlord is not responsive.

“As we’re in the coldest months of winter — whether you’re frustrated by your current lack of heat or you fear that you could move into a building with heating problems — we can help,” said Localize.city President Steve Kalifowitz. “Knowing about chronic heat and hot water problems can empower you if you’re trying to hold your landlord accountable or can help you avoid moving to a frigid building in the first place.”

Elected officials are hoping to take action

To crack down on buildings that chronically lack heat and hot water, City Council introduced legislation requiring the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to identify the 150 buildings (non-public housing buildings with three or more units) with the highest rates of hazardous heat violations over four years.

The city would then require landlords of those buildings to install heat sensors in all apartments that can record the temperature every hour, with the information accessible online.

Think you’re shivering alone? You may be surprised at how widespread the problem is in small buildings.

Localize.city analyzed the number of hazardous heat violations per unit over the previous four years in non-public housing buildings with three or more units.

The data science team found that smaller buildings may have bigger problems when it comes to having higher rates of heat and hot water violations — and these small buildings may have the most to gain if the legislation passes.

Of these top 150 buildings with the highest rates of hazardous heat violations, the analysis found that:

  • Nearly half of the buildings on the list had only three units
  • Another 27 percent had four units
  • Only seven buildings had nine or more units

Typically if one apartment has no heat, the entire building has no heat. So, larger buildings with more units may mean that more tenants are affected even if their violation rates are lower.

Seeing the widespread heat problems in buildings with only three or four units raises questions about how to hold landlords of these smaller buildings accountable. Are landlords in these these smaller buildings less responsive to tenant problems? Does HPD prioritize these buildings less in terms of inspections or are there challenges that are particularly difficult to address in this type of housing stock, like more homes built out of wood, for instance.

If you’re moving be sure to check a building’s violation history, whether it’s a three-unit building, a 12-unit building or a big complex.

You can check the violation history of the address at Localize.city, so you can avoid buildings with a chronic pattern of heat and hot water issues. You should be especially mindful if you’re looking to move into certain neighborhoods where heat problems are more widespread. Several neighborhoods in Central Brooklyn and the Bronx were among the top 10 heat violation offenders.

Made with FlourishNeighborhoods with fewer than 1,000 multi-family dwelling units were not included in above map.

These neighborhoods had the highest rates of heat violations

Bushwick, Brooklyn
Van Nest, Bronx
Crown heights, Brooklyn
Wakefield, Bronx
Williamsbridge, Bronx
East Flatbush, Brooklyn
Belmont, Bronx
East New York, Brooklyn
Tremont, Bronx
Hunts Point, Bronx

These were the top 3 addresses for total heat violations over 4 years

509 West 134th St., West Harlem, 19 units, 20 violations
381 Vernon Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant, 3 units, 18 violations
506 Brook Ave., Mott Haven, 9 units, 18 violations

Understand Your Rights

During heat season — Oct. 1 through May 31 — landlords are required to provide heat from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., ensuring that the inside temperature is 68 degrees everywhere in your apartment if the temperature outside falls below 55 degrees.  From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the inside temperature must be at least 62 degrees in your apartment regardless of the outside temperature.

How to take action if you have heat or hot water problems

Let your landlord know there’s a problem. If your landlord fails to address the problem and you think your landlord is violating the law, you can file a complaint through 311 either for your apartment or the building. (You can file a building-wide complaint anonymously, but must include the address.)

For the complaint to turn into a violation, here’s what happens next: It triggers a visit from an inspector with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. That inspector must then gain access — typically during the work day, when tenants are not home — and find that the heat is indeed not working.

 

 

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