As people in New York know, the seasons bring extreme differences to the area. The summers can be very hot and humid while the winters can bring snow, ice and subfreezing temperatures. During the winter months it is essential that people have heat in their apartments, not only to live comfortably, but also simply to avoid serious health complications. So, it is essential that utility bills are paid and the heat stays on.
To help ensure this happens, the law requires landlords to supply heat to their tenants' apartments. If the temperature falls below 55 degrees during the day, the heat must be up to at least to 68 degrees in the apartments. If the temperature falls below 40 degrees at night then the heat must be up to at least 55 degrees.
In addition to ensuring the apartments have heat, the landlord is also responsible for ensuring that each apartment has hot and cold water. The hot water must be at least 120 degrees as well.
If a landlord fails to pay these utility bills, the tenants can pay it and deduct that amount from their rent. This could lead not only to a landlord-tenant dispute, but the landlord also may be fined and have punitive damages imposed as a result. In addition to paying the utility bills and ensuring the services are provided, the landlord is also responsible for making sure that the equipment within the apartments that provide heat or water are in good working order and must repaired them if they are broken.
Even though the law requires landlords to do these things, some will try to cut costs wherever they can to make a little more money. If this is the case, the tenant has rights and may be entitled to rent reduction or other compensation from the landlord. It is very important that the tenants' rights are protected and experienced attorneys may be able to help them do so.
Source: AG.NY.gov, "Tenants' Rights Guide," accessed on Aug. 3, 2017