If you rent an apartment, you probably rely on your landlord for your heat source. Who pays for the energy costs depends on your rental agreement, but that doesn't change who is responsible for maintaining and repairing your furnace when things go wrong. Many tenants wonder how warm the landlord needs to keep the apartment and how long he can take to make repairs when the furnace fails. Like many things in life, both depend on the circumstances.
How warm is warm?
If you prefer temperatures above 68 degrees, you are probably out of luck with a heated apartment. While some landlords provide a thermostat in your living area so you can control it yourself, many do not. Because the regulations for heating vary from state to state, and even according to your municipality, there is no guarantee that your heated apartment will be kept at the temperature you prefer. There are, however, regulations in nearly every state governing the minimum temperature of your apartment.
Some states, like Maine, require landlords to maintain (or provide the means to maintain) a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit at all times during the heating season, if the outside temperatures drop below 20 degrees, says Pine Tree Legal. The heating season typically runs from October 1 to May 31 in Maine, but may vary depending on your state. Other states, like New York, follow more stringent regulations. For example in New York, the temperature inside your apartment must be at least 68 degrees between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., if the outside temperature is below 55 degrees. During the nighttime hours when the temperature outside falls to below 40 degrees, your landlord can drop the temperature in your apartment to 55 degrees, explains GothaMist.
What should I do if my apartment isn't warm enough?
- Document the temperature inside your apartment, as well as the temperature outside, if your state regulations are contingent on outside temperatures. Keep in mind that the temperature by a window may be lower than the stated minimum temperature. Check with your local regulations for specifics on measuring the temperature in your apartment. Typically, the temperature must be measured three feet from a window. Some states, like Maine, also note that the temperature must be measured at least 5 feet from the floor, explains Pine Tree Legal.
- Notify your landlord of the problem via phone or in person and follow up with a written request that includes the documentation.
- Keep a copy of all correspondence.
How quickly must the landlord repair the furnace?
Generally. you must allow your landlord a reasonable amount of time to make any repairs. In the case of your furnace, the amount of time deemed reasonable may depend on the time of year and the outside temperatures. According to LawHelp.org, 24 hours is typically considered a reasonable time to repair your furnace in the winter, while a month may be reasonable during the summer.
Can I call the furnace repairman if my landlord doesn't?
According to NOLO Law for All, most states allow you to have the furnace repaired and deduct the cost from your rent, if your landlord fails to do so in a reasonable time. However, the cost of the repair cannot exceed the amount of your rent and the repair must be deemed a major repair. A major repair refers to any defect that causes your apartment to be uninhabitable. In the case of your furnace, this applies to a furnace that does not work or that does not maintain the proper temperature. But beware! An occasional night when the temperatures dip a degree or two, probably won't be classified as making you apartment uninhabitable and you may be held financially responsible for the costs of repairs.
If you are unable to pay for the cost of a repair and your landlord does not fix your furnace right away, contact your local housing authority for guidance to resolve the issue and for more about this topic.