Q&A: Where's the Heat?

Q The co-op my mother lives in, in Queens, has a unique way of saving on heating expenses. First, from October to May, maintenance fees are raised for the fuel used during those months. Secondly, the heat is shut off completely at night. The heat goes on at 6:00 a.m., to warm the apartments, and then at 10:00 a.m. completely shuts off until 5:00 p.m. It then stays on until 10:00 p.m. and after that shuts off all night until 6:00 a.m. the following morning.

Nine hours a day the building is heated—while my mother constantly complains she is cold in her apartment. Is this efficient climate control? Money is seemingly no object in the co-op she lives in. I am sure each and every landlord or manager of co-ops knows how to save money. There is a heating law but shouldn’t all co-ops have to abide by it?

—Heat-Seeking Shareholder

A “For purposes of compliance with New York City heating regulations, a cooperative apartment building is in the same position as any rental building,” says Sandra Jacobus, an attorney with Ganfer & Shore, LLP, in Manhattan. “Because owners of cooperative apartments actually own shares in a corporation and have leases called proprietary leases that authorize them to occupy a particular space, they are considered tenants (the apartment corporation that owns the building is the landlord, and the owner of the apartment is the tenant in an apartment in the building).

“Certainly, the apartment corporation is obliged under the proprietary lease to provide heat to the apartments. New York City regulations provide that the heating season is from October 1 through May 31. During that period of time, the owner of the building must provide heat from six a.m. to ten p.m. when the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, sufficient to maintain a minimum inside temperature of 68 degrees. [The building] must provide heat from ten p.m. to six a.m. when outside temperatures fall below 40 degrees, sufficient to maintain an indoor temperature of 55 degrees. If your mother’s building does not follow these rules, it is a violation of New York City and New York State laws.

“Many apartment corporations have instituted temporary fuel surcharges to compensate for increases in fuel costs, hoping that the increased costs are temporary and, therefore, the regular maintenance charges will not need to be increased.

“In addition to complaining to the managing agent and the board of directors in writing, you should check your mother’s apartment to make sure her radiators are turned on and are in working order. Perhaps her windows need caulking to help keep in the heat and prevent cold air from infiltrating the apartment. It is a standard practice of building owners to reduce heat at night as a cost-saving method. If your mother gets no satisfaction from the board of directors or the management company, she can call 311 and register a heat complaint. The appropriate city agency will visit the premises and take temperature readings. If they find that the building does not meet the city requirements, they can issue a violation and the building will have to correct the situation.”

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10 Comments

  • In our cooperative building, the thermostat is in the interior hallway which is considerably warmer than the bedrooms which are on the outside walls. So how to determine which temperature to use for a gauge on whether it is withing the guidlines of the NYC regulations?
  • i have the opposite complaint -too much heat - why can't i have control in my own apt - to be able to shut off the heat when i want - I live in a rental bldg in Forest Hills, Queens for the past 28 years -
  • An excellent explanation of the city and state's heating rulws. Nicely done. But, are heating sytems on a timer illegal? Our management company has the heating sytem on a "cycle" as they call it. Shouldn/t the thermostat control the heat?
  • Is it legal for one shareholder in a nyc coop to make the building thermostat accessible to him only.
  • There is very little heat in my co op's hallway. The other buildings and hallways have heat. It is 20 degrees out and getting colder. The super did not fix the heat after I complained . Who canI complain to in Nassau County Long Island?
  • OUR HUD BLDG ON W 23ST IS UNDER RENOVATIONS AND WE GOT A NEW BOILER. I THOUGHT IT WOULD IMPROVE MY HEAT IN MY APT. IT DID NOT STILL ICE COLD RADIATORS IM GETTING NO WHERE WITH THE TENNANTS ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT. I USED TO PAY DUES I DOUBT I WILL ANY MORE. CAN A SUPER TURN OFF HEAT IN ONE APT ONLY??? BECAUSE THE HEAT IS ON. BT I AM NOT GETTING A DROP OF HEAT I HAVE TO RUN MY HEATER ALL THE TIME. I WAS TOLD BY THE TENNANTS ASSOCIATION THAT I CAN SLEEP WITH A HEATER ON. I DONT THINK SO I GUESS I FREEZE SIGNED A DISGRUNTFUL TENNANT ,,, I PAY MY RENT ON TIME I WANT MY HEAT IT IS NOT AN INTITLEMENT IT IS A MUST.
  • My 1 Year old co-op has units that will reasonable heat only when I activate an electric built in fan which runs on electricity and is very expensive. Without the fan the heaters are barely warm, certainly not what you would call sufficient. Is it legal to require shareholders to pay for electricity separately to get heat in the apartment?
  • My co-op president keeps the thermostat in his apartment on the 2nd floor. We are on the 4th floor with two kids and are constantly asking him to turn the heat up because the bedroom our baby in is never warm enough.
  • I have lived in a two bedroom coop apartment in N assau County for 3 years . During this entire period the heating system has never worked properly. The boiler is frequently in need of repairs and tempertures fluate . During the winter the themostat must be set at 75 and above to get minium heat. Also the heating bill ranges from less than $100 to near $400 from apartment to apartment with themostats set at the same and usage of electric basily the same.
  • The radiators in my co-op (studio) apartment are stone cold almost all the time and I would resentfully - but with relief - pay a surcharge to get some heat. I've never experienced anything like this and, as I am new to the co-op,, and as numerous polite requests for heat last winter (my first here) resulted only in having pleasant guys arrive with a thermometer which, held aloft (up where body heat and heat from the oven and the space heater is) and getting instructions re: covering windows, covering the A/c, etc. which seems beside the point as there is just zero heat unless I generate it. Oh there is a "sensor" that supposed regulated heat distribution placed high on one wall. I wonder whether the studio apartments (all on one line) are not given the heat that the larger, more costly, apartments receive. If this is the case and if this is common practice in co-ops, it might be a good thing to consider when considering whether or not to downsize. Is anyone familiar with this sort of heating economy?