Legal Aid To NYCHA: Refund Residents Who Were Without Heat, Hot Water Or Face Litigation

The Legal Aid Society mailed a demand letter to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) today warning of litigation if the Authority did not issue rent abatements to residents who went without heat and hot water during the recent cold spell which ran from December 27, 2017 to January 16, 2018.

At points during this period, entire developments were without heat and/or hot water. In other cases, entire buildings within developments were without heat and/or hot water. Additionally, while outages may not have been building wide, many individual apartments were without heat and/or hot water at some point during the cold spell.

Per City and State law, NYCHA, serving as a landlord, is obligated to establish and maintain certain housing standards. In particular, under the City’s Housing Maintenance Code (HMC), heat must be provided between October 1 and May 31 when temperatures fall below certain degrees. Moreover, the New York State Dwellings Law requires owners to provide both hot and cold water 24 hours a day.

After Hurricane Sandy ravaged NYCHA developments across the city destroying electrical, heat and hot water systems, The Legal Aid Society called on NYCHA to refund rent for tenants whose homes were completely uninhabitable. The City – bound by the aforementioned laws – issued abatements to impacted residents.

“It’s really quite simple: The City is required by law to provide these utilities. When that obligation is broken, there are consequences,” said Lucy Newman, Staff Attorney of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “Despite what the Mayor claims, NYCHA tenants are not second-class citizens; they’re afforded the same rights and protections tenants in other residencies enjoy. City Hall must do the right thing and make these tenants whole by refunding rents for when their homes were uninhabitable.”

The Legal Aid Society is a private, not-for-profit legal services organization, the oldest and largest in the nation, dedicated since 1876 to providing quality legal representation to low-income New Yorkers. It is dedicated to one simple but powerful belief: that no New Yorker should be denied access to justice because of poverty.