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Legal How-To: Getting Your Landlord to Fix the Heat

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Nothing ruins a festive holiday season like an ice-cold apartment with no working heater. While there's not a whole lot that the law requires from your landlord as far as amenities are concerned, adequate heating during cold weather is one of them.

Getting your landlord to fix the heat might be as simple as asking him or her, but just in case, here's a quick legal guide:

1. Simply Ask Your Landlord to Fix the Heat.

Sometimes the simplest solution is the most successful. Before you start raising legal hell over your freezing abode, you may want to consider a polite appeal to your landlord to fix the heating problem. Use whatever channel of communication is normal for you and your landlord -- phone, email, in-person, etc. -- and request the heat be fixed.

2. Make a Request in Writing.

Assuming your first polite attempt didn't work to get the heat turned on, you can make another, more formal request in writing. It doesn't have to contain any legal language, but make sure that it does include:

  • The date,
  • A clear description of the condition of your apartment without heat,
  • Your exact address,
  • Your name, and
  • Your landlord's name.

Keep a copy of any communication between you and your landlord, as it may be important later as notice of your heating problem.

3. Consider Contacting a Landlord/Tenant Attorney.

If your landlord is stonewalling you, you may need to contact a landlord/tenant attorney and explore your legal options. Many cities have laws requiring that landlords provide heat during cold months (or even year-round), and your attorney can help you get these laws enforced. Your landlord is also required by your lease to repair any appliances that are attached to your apartment, which probably includes your radiator or heater.

4. Buy a Portable Heater and Deduct It From Your Rent.

Yes your landlord may be breaking his implied promise of habitability under the lease by not fixing the heat. But while he or she is letting the legal ramifications sink in, you're still going to be cold. You do have some potential options: You could buy a portable heater or hire someone to fix your heater on your own. Either way, you can then deduct these expenses from the next month's rent -- which should definitely get your landlord's attention.

If at any point your landlord attempts to evict you, you may have to get a court order for the heat to ever be fixed. Bottom line: It's generally best to talk to an experienced landlord/tenant attorney before you get too steamed over your heater.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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