Real Estate

How Do I Make My Building Turn on the Heat (or Turn It Up)?

Q: Our co-op building near Gramercy Park is not following New York City heating laws. There’s been no heat after 10 p.m. so far this year, and there was rarely heat at night last year. There is no heat at 6 a.m. — it comes on at 7 a.m. The windows are drafty and need to be replaced, which makes the problem worse. A vote by co-op shareholders on replacing the windows did not pass. Several of us have offered to pay to replace the windows ourselves, but we were told we cannot do this. What can we do to make sure the building is properly heated?

A: New York City requires building owners to provide heat between Oct. 1 and May 31. From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., if the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, the inside temperature must be at least 68 degrees. Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the inside temperature must be at least 62 degrees, regardless of the outdoor temperature.

In the case of a co-op, the board is responsible for ensuring that the apartments have adequate heat to meet the city’s requirements, said Stuart M. Saft, partner and real estate practice group leader at Holland & Knight LLP law firm.

You can start by bringing this up with the co-op’s board, and telling the members that the temperature in your apartment is in violation of city law. If that doesn’t work, you can seek legal assistance regarding the best course of action, such as having your maintenance payments held in escrow until the issue is resolved, or complaining to the city, Mr. Saft said.

If you call 311 to make a complaint, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development could issue violations. The violations might incentivize the board to act quickly and make sure all shareholders have heat — but, they could also cost the building money.

As for the windows, check the proprietary lease to see if there is more guidance about replacement. Perhaps you live in a building with landmark status, meaning the Landmarks Preservation Committee would have to approve new windows. Try to have another conversation with the board to learn why there’s a problem with allowing shareholders to replace their own windows.

“Work in a neighborly way to try to have this addressed,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a real estate lawyer and partner at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas. “Not everything needs contentiousness to get something done.”

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