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New York Landlord-Tenant Dispute: No Heat Leaves Residents Heated

Tenants in Battery Park City’s Gateway Plaza are in a heated dispute with their landlord over reportedly freezing conditions inside their units.

News reports indicate the owner of the property has made numerous promises to repair faulty windows and heating units. However, those promises, tenants say, have gone largely unfulfilled while they have suffered through bouts of extreme cold, with snow and ice piling up inside unsealed windows.

There was talk at a recent Community Board 1 meeting of initiating a rent strike after a year of empty pledges to conduct the various repairs. Of approximately 3,500 units, only about 300 have received the repairs that were vowed. Now, the tenant association is discussing the possibility of filing a landlord-tenant lawsuit on the grounds that the landlord has violated the New York City warranty of habitability guidelines guaranteed to renters under the Rent Guidelines Board.

These guidelines govern everything from rent charges to elevator mirrors.

The warranty of habitability holds that tenants have the right to place that is livable, sanitary and safe. No matter what kind of lease you have, this right is implied, and any provision that waives this right is contrary to public policy and as such, will be found void.

The Gateway Plaza tenants may have a good case for proving a violation of warranty of habitability.

Other examples might be failure to take appropriate actions against insect or rodent infestations or failure to provide regular running water.

The clause doesn’t cover conditions that are caused by the tenant. In this case, it is the tenant’s responsibility to remedy the situation.

However, if it is the landlord who is in violation, renters have a number of options. He or she can sue for a rent reduction. Otherwise, they may file a rent reduction complaint with the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

A tenant can withhold rent (called a rent strike), but be aware that the landlord can turn around and sue you for not paying the rent. From there, a tenant can then counter-sue for breach of warranty.

Generally speaking, landlords have to keep their apartment in good repair, free of insects or other pests, garbage and other material deemed offensive. They have to maintain electrical, plumbing and heating and ventilation systems. Appliances also have to be kept in good working order.

Specifically with regard to heat, landlords must supply heat from the beginning of October through the end of May for those living in a multi-unit setting. If the temperature outside falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, the apartment has to be kept at a temperature of at least 68 degrees. When it falls below 40 degrees, temperatures have to be kept at a minimum of 55 degrees.

Tenants who are concerned that their landlord may be infringing upon their rights should consult with an experienced attorney who is experienced in handling tenant-landlord disputes.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides representation in landlord-tenant disputes in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375.

Additional Resources:
Tenants in Battery Park City Furious Over Lack of Heat, Jan. 19, 2014, By Rowley Amato, New York Curbed
More Blog Entries:
Landlord Liability in Nuisance Claims Pitted Against Victim Rights, Sept. 8, 2013, New York Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Blog