Is It Illegal for a Landlord To Not Provide Heat?


Is It Illegal for a Landlord To Not Provide Heat?
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When you live in a northern state with cold autumns, freezing winters, and cool springs, you rely on adequate heating to keep you warm. Even if you don’t live in a state with these seasonal changes, reliable heating can be key to keeping your home comfortable. The laws determining whether your landlord should provide heating in a rental property can vary from state to state and even city to city. For example, San Francisco requires a homeowner to provide heat that can maintain at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit in “living rooms,” while New York City has specific indoor temperature requirements that coincide with day and day temperatures. evening in different seasons.

Does my landlord have to provide heating?

All landlords, regardless of where you live, must provide “safe and livable conditions” in every rental property. Most states require homeowners to provide access to heating in rentals, which means they must maintain boilers, furnaces, radiators, thermostats, and other technology that manages the heating system. They must also fix any problems with the heating system in a timely manner.

Multi-unit buildings may have only one thermostat that manages heating throughout the building. An owner would control the heating in this case, limiting tenants’ access to the rental heating to their comfort.

In some states, a landlord may not be required to pay to store heat in a dwelling, and you may be required to pay for this utility separately or as part of your rent payment. Make sure your rental agreement shows how your home is heated and whether you have to pay for the heating as a separate utility or as part of your rent.

What to do if a rental is too cold

Since a rental heating system can take many forms, there are several reasons why your rental might not meet your comfort standards:

If you have a thermostat

If you have access to the thermostat and your rental is too cold, turn up the heat. Keep in mind the heating source (boiler and steam versus forced air, etc.) and the utility that supplies the source (gas versus water versus electricity) to make sure you stick to your personal budget.

Consider finding other ways to stay warm without turning up the heat too much. Enroll in a budget billing program with your utility where they charge you the same amount per month based on your typical usage. This allows you to budget consistently without big surprise bills.

If you get a budget bill and set the thermostat where you want it and the rental still doesn’t reach that temperature, you need to contact your landlord. There might be an underlying issue with the heating system, thermostat, doors and windows, or some other building feature that they need to fix. By communicating about this issue as soon as possible, you can resolve your heating problem faster and work with your landlord to help maintain the property.

If your landlord controls the thermostat

If your landlord controls the thermostat and your rental is too cold for your liking, ask if there is a way to adjust the heat to make you comfortable. Maybe they set the thermostat to the same temperature they always have, but the unit is not heating properly. The homeowner may discover that there is a problem with the heating system or thermostat that they need to repair immediately.

However, in multi-unit buildings, the landlord may require each tenant to compromise on comfort, as some units can get hotter than others. As long as the heat reaches the minimum temperature required in all accommodation, the homeowner can choose not to increase the heat to keep the heat distribution as even as possible.

Homeowners may also be less willing to adjust the heating due to budget constraints. However, you can offer to pay the difference on the utility bill to help them provide the best possible heating for your comfort.

What to do if a homeowner refuses to repair the heater

A good landlord will comply with state regulations and the terms of your lease. However, if you come across an owner who doesn’t, here are some things you can do. (Please note: This article does not constitute legal advice and tenants should not substitute this information for professional legal advice.)

  • Fix the problem yourself and deduct it from your rent. If you have the money, you could pay for an inspection and have a maintenance professional fix the heater. Then give the receipt to your landlord and deduct the service charge amount from your rent.
  • Refuse to pay rent until the problem is resolved. Learn the laws in your state and review your lease to see if, and under what circumstances, you can withhold rent until the issue is resolved. You can also consult a legal professional to guide you in this decision. This way, you comply with the law and avoid possible legal action from the landlord for breaching the terms of your lease.
  • Break the lease and go. If the landlord does not provide basic safe and livable conditions in accordance with your state’s regulations, you may have the right to terminate your lease.
  • Seek legal action. An attorney can also help you make sure that you have the right to terminate the lease because the landlord is not following your state’s regulations or the terms of the lease. They will also represent you if you are considering suing the owner.

No matter where your rental is located, you are entitled to a comfortable living environment, which includes adequate access to heat and other safety and comfort features. But it’s important to know the limitations owners face and the options you need to work with them to make your rental as comfortable as possible when the seasons change.