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How warm should my landlord keep my apartment?
January 30, 2007 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I've tried Google-ing and I've done what I can manage with the archives, but I'm not finding the answer to my how-warm-is-the-landlord-obligated-to-keep-my-apartment question...

I live in a West Philadelphia apartment that is the first floor of a house that was divided for rental purposes. The thermostat is in the hallway/stairwell - to which I have no access until I get a spare from the upstairs neighbor - to the second and third floor apartments. Lately, there has been no warm air coming out of the forced air system in the house which means that by 6 am this morning, it was 62F in my apartment. My live-in mate says that the landlord is legally obligated to keep the house at 72F but they regularly instruct the second and third floor renters to keep it at 68F.

I can't find any kind of legal requirements online for how warm a landlord must keep a rental property in the wintertime. Does anyone know anything about this purported legal warmth providing requirement?
posted by oreonax to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
 
Have you tried calling the Tenants' Action Group ? They should know.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:22 AM on January 30, 2007


Google turns up a guide. (Google: "philadelphia landlord heat regulations", first hit)

HEATING SYSTEM AND THE PROVISION OF ADEQUATE HEAT
§ The landlord must provide a central heating system or an approved separate
permanent heating system for each rental house or apartment. Heating equipment
must be safe, properly installed, and adequate to heat the dwelling unit to 68
degrees at all times that the outside temperature is at or above 10 degrees.
§ In buildings with two or more apartments, the landlord must supply heat at a
temperature of 68 degrees for each apartment from October 1 through April 30 and
during May and September when the outside temperature falls below 60 degrees.
§ The landlord does not have to supply heat if the tenant is provided with separate
heating equipment solely under the control of the tenant of that apartment.
§ Approved portable kerosene heaters are only legal in one- and two-family dwellings
provided they comply with the International Fire Code.
posted by jellicle at 10:24 AM on January 30, 2007


This person says 68 degrees is required in Philly. It is backed up by this though I'm not turning up a more authoritative source.

On preview... jellicle has a better answer. I used this google search.
posted by exogenous at 10:26 AM on January 30, 2007


Ah, thanks. apparently I am not so great at search terms...

So... does that mean that the single control for the 3 floors is not "separate permanent heating"? I guess it doesn't end up mattering as I'll be getting a spare key from an upstairs tenant so that I have access, but intuitively, it seems like they should have either provided a key or set up a separate heating system for the first floor.
posted by oreonax at 10:34 AM on January 30, 2007


According to Philadelphia's Property Maintenance Code section PM-406.2.1:
Heat shall be supplied continuously at the temperature and in the rooms specified in Section PM-406.2 from October 1 to April 30 inclusive, and in addition thereto during the months of May or September when the outside temperature falls below 60 degrees F (15 degrees C) by every owner or operator of every two-family dwelling, multiple-family dwelling and rooming house except where there are separate heating facilities for each dwelling unit, whose facilities are under the sole control of the occupant of such dwelling unit.
Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections has a more readable document, called "Partners for Good Housing" which outlines the responsibilities of owners, tenants, and landlords for maintaining houses and apartments in a safe and clean condition. It says:
The landlord must provide a central heating system or an approved separate permanent heating system for each rental house or apartment. Heating equipment must be safe, properly installed, and adequate to heat the dwelling unit to 68 degrees at all times that the outside temperature is at or above 10 degrees.

In buildings with two or more apartments, the landlord must supply heat at a temperature of 68 degrees for each apartment from October 1 through April 30 and during May and September when the outside temperature falls below 60 degrees.

The landlord does not have to supply heat if the tenant is provided with separate heating equipment solely under the control of the tenant of that apartment.
Finally, the Department of Licenses and Inspections has a Heat Crisis Hotline that is available to any renter in Philadelphia (during business hours the number is 215-686-2590 and it is 215-686-1776 for emergency calls during evening and weekend hours). During the months of October through April, and anytime in September or May that the outside temperature falls below 60 degrees, you can call the Heat Hotline if the temperature in your apartment or home is less than 68 degrees. L&I will inspect your unit within 24 hours, order the landlord to restore the heat and re-inspect to ensure the landlord has complied. If necessary, L&I will hire a contractor to do the work and will bill the landlord - or, if repairs are not possible - will provide you with relocation assistance.
posted by RichardP at 10:46 AM on January 30, 2007


Argh. Those last two links should have been Department of Licenses and Inspections and "Partners for Good Housing".
posted by RichardP at 10:51 AM on January 30, 2007


Despite what the rules say, your landlord needs to keep the heat reasonably in line with what the tenants want. Otherwise, he or she will have a load of vacancies on his/her hands. And this means lost revenue.

Even if the landlord's within the law, feel free to express your displeasure with the current comfort level. Then see what happens.
posted by Gordion Knott at 11:56 AM on January 30, 2007


Before going the legal route, have a conversation with your landlord first - "it's really cold in my apartment and I'd really like the heat turned up." If s/he refuses, leave a note for your landlord and attach a copy of the ordinance. If that fails, call the department of licenses and inspections as linked above.

I was in the exact same situation - it probably helped that I worked for a law firm at the time (though not as a lawyer).
posted by desjardins at 6:26 AM on January 31, 2007


Thanks again!

As things stand, the heat is on and working fairly consistently. It's not so much that they were being unreasonable but more that I was curious as to the actual legal-ese behind you-shouldn't-let-your-tenants-freeze.
posted by oreonax at 3:26 PM on February 1, 2007


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