Cold Enough for You? NYC Heat Complaints Lagging This Year

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Winter has finally arrived in New York City, sparking another Bill de Blasio-Andrew Cuomo spat—this time over who has or needs the power to remove homeless people from the street to protect them from frigid temperatures.

But being inside doesn’t necessarily mean being warm enough: Since October 1, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has received just shy of 80,000 complaints about landlords failing to provide enough heat; 1200 heat complaints came in on Sunday alone.

Under the city’s Housing and Maintenance Code, residential property owners have to provide hot water (meaning wet stuff with an average temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit) 365 days a year. During the October 1 to May 31 “heat season,” if it’s below 55 degrees during the day it has to be at least 68 degrees inside, and it’s below 40 degrees at night it must be 55 degrees inside.

The unseasonably—some might say disgustingly—warm weather so far this season has meant 16 percent fewer heat complaints compared with the same period last year, according to an HPD tracking tool. The busiest day so far for the agency was October 18, when it fielded more than 3,200 complaints. Not surprisingly, weather records indicate that was the first day since last winter that daytime and evening temps dipped below the respective 55-degree and 40-degree cutoffs.

Over the past 15 years, HPD has logged nearly 1.7 million heat and hot water complaints. Fiscal 2015, which ended last July, saw the highest number of complaints in six years, though landlords received violations in a smaller-than-typical share of those cases.

Year Heat/hot water complaints Heat/hot water violations issued Enforcement rate
FY01 90,600 14,700 16.23%
FY02 79,000 13,400 16.96%
FY03 104,900 14,400 13.73%
FY04 118,500 14,500 12.24%
FY05 124,600 12,900 10.35%
FY06 124,297 11,291 9.08%
FY07 123,168 9,824 7.98%
FY08 111,642 12,374 11.08%
FY09 128,708 15,727 12.22%
FY10 114,009 12,436 10.91%
FY11 115,583 12,945 11.20%
FY12 99,430 10,869 10.93%
FY13 108,742 12,216 11.23%
FY14 120,106 12,352 10.28%
FY15 122,753 10,478 8.54%
TOTAL/AVERAGE 1,686,038 190,412 11.29%
Source: MMR