As winter weather continues to slam the northeastern region of the United States, homes with functioning heat become increasingly vital. For renters, it’s important to understand what your landlord’s obligations are when it comes to heating your apartment and what to do when staying warm this winter falls to you. So what exactly are you entitled to?
Obviously, your first action is to notify your landlord that the heating system in your 1 or 2 bedroom apartment isn’t working and determine whether it is a major or minor repair problem. If the lack of heat makes the apartment unfit to live in (i.e. your thermometer reads under 55 degrees), then it’s definitely a major repair problem. Legally, landlords can install electric or gas heating systems in singular apartments and request that the tenants reimburse the lessor for the charges, meaning you’re the one paying up. However, landlords are also required to supply heat to their tenants, so they are responsible for the necessary heat system elements.
Additionally, a lessor cannot change the terms of your lease without your consent. So if heating is included in your lease agreement, you may be entitled to a prorated rent for the icy days spent in your apartment. (This also works vice versa in many areas for air conditioning during the summer time.) However, this doesn’t mean you should automatically skip out on rent for the month. First, try negotiating with your landlord about adjusting next month’s rent before resorting to drastic measures. States (and even cities) have different laws and ordinances in regards to what constitutes as “fit and habitable” housing requirements. Check out your local government’s website for more information about housing codes and the legal requirements for landlords in your area.
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