Pols push for temperature sensors in NYC apartments where landlords cut off heat

New_York_Daily_News_logo.png By Erin Durkin

No heat? There's an app for that.

City Council members are introducing new legislation that would force landlords notorious for leaving tenants in the cold to install temperature sensors in their apartments.

"We finally have the technology that will turn up the heat on landlords," said Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), one of the sponsors. "The landlord will think twice about depriving his residents of heat and hot water, because he will know the city is watching."

The bill, which will be introduced Wednesday, will require the city to identify the 150 buildings with the highest ratio of hazardous heat violations to units.

Landlords in those buildings will be required to put a heat sensor — like the ones designed by tech nonprofit Heat Seek NYC — in each apartment.

The $120 device is a small black box that plugs into the wall, and records the temperature once every hour. It can then transmit that data online to city enforcers.

Landlords are required by law to heat apartments to at least 68 degrees during the day and 62 degrees at night between mid-fall and mid-spring if it's cold enough outside.

But while tenants can file complaints about lack of heat, it's tough to catch landlords in the act and fine them if they switch on the heat in time for an inspector's visit.

"When he departs, the heat departs as well," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. "That is outdated and antiquated."

Just this past winter, which featured a brutal cold snap, there were 200,000 complaints filed about inadequate heat and hot water.

Pols spoke in front of a building on W. 134th St. in Hamilton Heights that had 64 heat violations, the highest of any building in the city.

Heat outages can result when boilers break down, but other landlords deliberately shut off the heat in a bid to get tenants in rent stabilized apartments to leave so they can jack up the rent.

"We are on a street in a neighborhood that is ground zero for the abuse of landlords who use denial of heat and hot water as a weapon for pushing out low income tenants. Because they know that the elderly, the frail and the young cannot survive in apartments without adequate heat," said Councilman Mark Levine, who represents the area and is also sponsoring the bill.

"When tenants call for help, it can take days and weeks for an inspector to show up."

Under the legislation, once a landlord is put on the list they would have to keep the sensors in place for at least four years. They're fitted with tamper-proof tape to ensure they can't be manipulated.

Read the full story here.

Sign up for our mailing list!

Report a Problem Participatory Budgeting Events