FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 1, 2003
Press Contact: Carol Abrams (212) 863-5176
Call 311 to report apartment maintenance complaints
2003/2004 HEAT SEASON BEGINS:
HPD TO ENFORCE LAWS REQUIRING BUILDING OWNERS TO PROVIDE HEAT
New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Jerilyn Perine kicked off heat season today by reminding residential building owners of their legal obligation to provide tenants with 24-hour heat whenever the outdoor temperature warrants it and hot water year-round.
The 2003/2004 heat season begins today and continues through May 31, 2004. During heat season, owners of privately-owned multiple dwellings throughout the five boroughs are required by law to maintain an indoor temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit between 6:00 A.M. and 10:00 P.M. when the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees. Between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M., building owners must maintain an indoor temperature of 55 degrees when the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees.
In the event of a heat deficiency, a tenant should first attempt to notify the building owner, managing agent or superintendent. If heat is not restored, the tenant should call the City's Citizen Service Center at 311. 311 is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The City's Citizen Service Center can also receive complaints from hearing-impaired tenants via a Touchtone Device for the Deaf TDD at (212) 504-4115.
Public service announcements advising tenants what to do if they have inadequate heat and hot water will begin airing today on cable television in New York City and will run until the end of the heat season. Information on heat season is also available on the HPD web site at nyc.gov/hpd.
"Our goal is to educate New York's tenants about their rights during the winter months and remind building owners about their responsibilities," said Commissioner Perine.
As a complement to its enforcement strategy, HPD identifies owners who may desire to provide services but lack the required knowledge and training. The Housing Litigation Division is able to refer first time heat litigants to a heat training program which offers training in lieu of fines.
HPD runs a related training program that targets building owners who were issued heat and hot water violations during the previous heat season. Owners with prior violations are contacted and offered training on proper heating plant operations and information on how to responsibly reduce heating expenses while maintaining adequate heat services. HPD also monitors to see if additional heat violations were placed on these buildings during the new heat season. Owners who incur additional heat violations are subject to litigation seeking maximum litigation penalties and to continued scrutiny on heat and other code deficiencies.
"We are putting landlords with a history of heat problems on notice, and providing them with education and assistance to encourage compliance," Commissioner Perine said. "Those targeted landlords who continue to violate the law will be brought into court."
HPD's Housing Education Program at 311 is also a source of heat training and offers other courses such as how to effectively deal with building finances and caring for the building's heating plant.
To help owners better maintain their heat and hot water systems, HPD produced a video called "Heat and Hot Water in Residential Buildings." It is available at no cost through HPD's Owner Services Program by calling 311.
During last year's heat season, a total of 174,753 heat and hot water complaints were called in to the city. When an operator receives a complaint, HPD staff will attempt to contact the building's owner or managing agent to get heat or hot water service restored. Before an HPD code inspector is dispatched to the building, HPD will call the tenant back to determine whether service has been restored. If service has not been restored, an HPD inspector is sent to the building to verify the complaint and issue a violation.
In cases where private owners fail to restore heat and hot water, or when HPD is unable to reach owners, HPD's Emergency Repair Program (ERP) uses in-house staff and private contractors to make the necessary repairs to restore essential services.
The cost of the emergency repairs is billed to the private owner and becomes a tax lien on the property if not paid. The City's Emergency Repair Program is by far the most extensive in the nation.
HPD is the nation's largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. A major responsibility of the agency is to encourage preservation of affordable housing through education, outreach, loan programs, and enforcement of housing quality standards.