The Importance of Providing Heat for your Tenants: A Landlord’s Guide

02/11/2016 08:00:00

As a landlord running a multi-unit building or set of apartments, you have many responsibilities towards your tenants. You are required by law to provide a sanitary space with access to clean water, with sufficient weatherproofing, and with electricity. The other major thing that you need to provide is heat – both the type that keeps the air warm enough and the type that produces hot water. But how much heat are you responsible for exactly, and what are the consequences of failure to provide it? Here are the answers to some of your most pressing questions.

When to Turn on the Heating Unit

This really depends on where you are living and what the local climate and conditions are. Some cities specify a date after which landlords are legally required to maintain a certain temperature during the day and night.[1][2] This often includes stipulations about the outdoor temperature, so that if you are facing an out-of-season heat wave, you can reasonably avoid overheating the apartments. Check your local housing authority for any requirements that you may have to adhere to.

What to Do about Inconsistent Temperatures

One of the big problems with managing a multi-unit building is that things will sometimes be inconsistent – and this includes the heat. Often, you will get complaints that some units are too cold while others are sauna-like. The first step to take in cases such as these is to check out the units individually and see if there are unique problems that can be remedied.

For instance, perhaps one of those overly cold units has a bunch of furniture blocking the heat vents. This should be moved to see if the problem goes away. Or maybe a unit has a blockage in the vent itself or a leak in the insulation, which you can easily fix by hiring a professional to clean it out or patch it up. Once the heating is working properly in all units, you can keep the temperature at a reasonable level within the local guidelines. Also, you can install a thermostat in each unit (if you haven’t already) and allow tenants to control the temperature to a certain degree.

How to Handle a Failure

If something major happens and your whole heating system goes at once, your best bet is to act quickly. Tenants are entitled to heat that you provide, so any breach of that agreement will be something that they can be compensated for if you don’t respond to the problem promptly (we’ll get into the specifics of that next). Large issues and complete system-wide replacement may take some time, however, and you can’t leave your tenants in the cold for long.

Electric heater and boiler rentals can stand in for your current system until it is up and running again. These can actually be hooked up to your existing delivery system so that you don’t need much extra equipment.

What Happens When You Fail to Take Action

If you put off fixing the heat for a tenant, the consequences to you will be less than pleasant, and may completely negate any value you get from waiting. Though these potential consequences do vary depending on your state and local laws, you may face the following if you don’t address your tenant’s concerns:

  • The tenant may not have to pay rent or may pay less rent for the duration of the issue.
  • If it is a localized problem (the tenant’s individual vents are clogged, for instance), the tenant may choose to have it fixed themselves and take the money they spent out of their rent payment.
  • You may be reported to your local housing agency or building inspector, who may order repairs be made or serve you with fines.
  • The tenant may be able to leave in the middle of the lease.
  • The tenant can sue you.

If there is a problem with your heating, major or minor, you should always keep your tenants apprised of the issue, the steps you are taking to fix it, and when things will be back to normal. Call or contact us at Carrier Rental Systems if you have any questions about heater rentals for your apartment building!



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