Residents of New York City in the winter months appreciate what “cold” means – especially if your apartment has faulty heating. With temperatures dropping as low as 14 degrees, with snow and ice, a cold apartment is a nightmare. If you are living with heating problems and a faulty radiator, do you have a case against your landlord? The answer is very likely that you do.
The Risks of a Faulty Radiator
Radiators are regulated by a valve that monitors the volume of steam flowing through the pipes, thereby controlling how much heat is produced. If your radiator is malfunctioning, there are risks beyond just suffering through freezing days and nights:
- Burns: When a valve stops controlling how much steam goes through, radiators can get so hot they burn the skin when touched, or a valve may break and release scalding steam into your apartment causing disfiguring, painful burns.
- Apartment fires: When a radiator gets too hot due to a faulty valve, it may lead to a fire.
Your Legal Recourse
In New York City, landlords are required to provide a safe and habitable environment to tenants, regardless of what is written in a lease. A safe and habitable environment includes:
- Adequate heat
- Hot water
- Free from insect or pest infestations
If you suffer from a faulty radiator, lack of hot water, or an infestation that you didn’t directly cause (in which you would, of course, be responsible for fixing the problem), you must notify your landlord right away. If your landlord doesn’t promptly deal with it, you need to take photos and maintain meticulous documentation of out-of-pocket expenses to address the problem, and take one of the following options:
- Withhold rent: You have the legal right to withhold rent until the repairs are completed, after which it must be paid. Withholding rent can be risky, as the landlord may attempt to evict you. You can respond with a suit for failure to provide a safe and habitable environment.
- Sue for a rent reduction: You have the legal right to sue the landlord for reduced rent to accommodate you for your troubles.
- Make the repairs yourself and subtract the cost from your rent: If the landlord has still not made repairs after you notified them and have had a reasonable amount of time to repair the issue, you can make the repairs yourself and subtract the cost from your rent. Make sure to keep all receipts and take lots of photos.
If your apartment catches fire for any reason other than your direct cause, you have the legal right to leave with a three-day notice and you are not obligated to pay further rent. Your right to move applies regardless of your existing lease, and if the fire started after you had previously alerted your landlord of a problem, the landlord can be held liable for compensating you for your losses.
We Can Help
At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, we are a top New York City law firm that focuses on protecting the rights of those who’ve been injured or suffered a catastrophic loss. If you have been threatened with eviction after reporting a lack of heating in your apartment, or if you’ve lost your residence due to fire, then our experienced property damage attorneys can help you take legal action to recover your losses.