New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Condo: Any Recourse For No Heat?

FL: I’m an owner at a generally nice middle-class condo in Manhattan. Our building management does a perfectly fine job, and I’ve found our resident manager and assistant manager both to be friendly and responsible professionals.

What’s the problem? Our bedroom floorboard radiator vent has given no heat for two weeks. Without going into detail about the repair delay, it comes down to the super bleeding a pipe somewhere, and we have a little heat for an hour or two and then nothing.

This keeps happening. So whatever they’re doing isn’t working as a real solution. Our bedroom temperature is in the low 60s. It’s gotten to be that raw, incessant cold where you’re shivering all the time.

What can we do? What steps can we take? We’ve very politely spoken with the managers, and have sent them a friendly, detailed letter outlining all this. What next if we get no heat tomorrow? Contact the home office of the management company and cc the board? Will that upset the resident managers, who are trying hard to be helpful? Contact the city? Have my attorney send someone a letter? I suppose we could withhold our monthly carrying charge, but that’s never a good option and I’d rather have heat.

None of these choices sound optimal. It comes down to this: do we have no recourse? Can the building simply not provide heat and there’s nothing we can do without threatening legal action?

What can we do? What do you suggest? I’m feeling desperate. I escaped a rent-stabilized apartment where we had little heat in winter, and now it’s like that all over again, but for four times the monthly cost.

 

me too: I was in the same situation earlier in the season. I found out a neighbor didn’t get heat and we complained to the management office. Supers tend to pay more attention to the management office than to residents. So, find out if any of your neighbors above, below, or next to you are in the same situation.

 

Knowsbest: If you live in a co-op, you can also take the corporation to housing court as the relationship of a co-op to its shareholders is that of a landlord-tenant. In that instance, owners can file very cheaply at their borough’s housing court against the corporation for lack of heat and a board member and counsel have to appear in court. It is best to register your complaints by dialing 311 and have an inspector come out and take temperature readings so that a violation is issued. Good luck. It is the faster route to take when your board and managing agent fail to remedy the problem.

 

Steve-Inwood: Do you have steam heat or hot water? And if steam, do you have two-pipe or single-pipe steam heat?

I would suggest making sure the valve that connects the convector to the pipes in the floor or wall is full open (for steam, it should never be partially closed anyway). Then, check the air valve on the convector. It should hiss to let the air out when the steam is rising and shut when hot. If it does not hiss, either your air valve is busted and needs replacing or your convector is not getting any steam. If hot water, then the valve in your unit needs to be bled too.

 

HabitatReporter: Attorney Eric Goidel, of Borah Goldstein Altschuler Nahins, & Goidel, responds: “Unfortunately, if building personnel are unable to provide a permanent solution to the radiator problem, your only real remedies are to file a complaint with the City of New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development and if then unresolved possibly pursue a personal civil action.

“New York City heat laws require that when the outside temperature falls below 55°F, between the hours of 6 A.M. and 10 P.M., a landlord must provide sufficient heat to maintain apartments at a minimum of 68°F. Between the hours of 10 P.M. and 6 A.M. where the outside temperature falls below 40°F, heat must be provided such that an apartment has a minimum temperature of 55°F. A call to the city’s 311 line will eventually result in an inspector coming to your unit and taking thermometer readings. If the readings are not in compliance with law, a violation will be issued to the board of managers. Fines are significant and can quickly mount up.

“Unfortunately, in a condominium setting, a unit-owner does not have the same ability to withhold their common charges as might a shareholder in a cooperative who could withhold maintenance. The failure to furnish heat would be a defense in a cooperative to a nonpayment proceeding. As there is no lease for a condominium unit and thus, no landlord-tenant relationship, the only ability that a unit-owner has to obtain personal redress is to commence an action against the board of managers for damages. Damages however will seldom if ever exceed the common charges owed for the period of time when the unit was without heat. Add to this the legal fees which the unit-owner would incur and it often makes such an action economically impractical.”

 

 

 

“Board Talk” is an online discussion forum where board members can post questions to which other board members can respond.
Topics range from mouse-proofing to legal retainers – really, anything, and all things, that boards encounter on a daily basis. Some
of the responses have been edited for clarity. Want to participate? Go to: www.habitatmag.com/activities/board_talk

 

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