New York, NY – October 2, 2008 – (RealEstateRama) — New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan today reminded residential building owners of their legal obligation to provide tenants with hot water year-round and 24-hour heat when the outdoor temperature warrants it.

The 2008/2009 “heat season” begins today and continues through May 31, 2009. During heat season, residential owners with tenants 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 which 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.

Information on heat season is also available on the HPD web site at www.nyc.gov/hpd. As part of HPD’s commitment to providing information to non-English speaking New Yorkers, HPD has produced magnets with heat season requirements in twelve different languages. The magnets can be picked up at HPD’s borough offices.

“Our goal is to educate New York’s tenants about their rights during the winter and remind building owners about their responsibilities,” said Commissioner Donovan. “We are putting landlords with a history of heat problems on notice, and providing them with education and assistance to encourage compliance,” he added. “Those landlords who continue to violate the law will be brought to court. Last fiscal year, HPD filed heat case litigation against 2,971 landlords and collected $1,869,671 in heat fines to compel them to make repairs.”

During the 2007/2008 heat season, 104,960 heat and hot water problems were reported to the City through 311.  When an operator receives a complaint, HPD staff attempts 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, if warranted, 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) may use 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.

In January 2004, Mayor Bloomberg signed legislation that increased the civil penalty range for heat and hot water violations from $250 to a maximum of $500 per day for first violations. Further, the bill established a new penalty structure for subsequent violations at the same location, within the same calendar year, with penalties ranging from $500 to $1000 per day. This was the first increase in penalties in over 20 years.

HPD also works with building owners who want to improve the management of their buildings or need assistance with improving their heating systems.  HPD’s Housing Education Program offers courses for owners, managing agents, and superintendents on “Residential Property Management and Maintenance,” including caring for the building’s heating plant. Interested parties may register at www.nyc.gov/hpd or by calling 311 and may also watch HPD’s video “Heat and Hot Water in Residential Buildings” on-line at www.nyc.gov/hpd or order it at no cost through HPD’s Owner Services Program by calling 311.

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.

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.

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