Q. I own apartments, and like to think I’m a fair landlord, but I have a tenant who keeps their apartment at an extreme — like near 80 degrees — but also keeps the windows open. Recently, because of the high energy bills, which they don’t have to pay, since it’s a fixed rental fee, I looked into getting control of the thermostats and controlling them remotely. I need to keep energy costs in line, and I’m exasperated after talking with the tenant several times about this. Is there a legal limit to what the temperature can be kept at, and how do I make sure I don’t get a violation for what I’m about to do?
A. One of the many unpleasant parts of being a landlord is when tenants have no sensitivity for the cost of owning and running a building. It makes many well-meaning landlords not so well-meaning, and that’s when the friction for control takes place.
The regulations for Nassau County, where your building is, do not include all communities. Two cities, Glen Cove and Long Beach, have their own regulations, as do some villages — namely Cedarhurst, Freeport, Great Neck, Great Neck Plaza, Hempstead, Lynbrook and Rockville Centre. Nassau County requires that, from Oct. 1 to May 31, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the indoor temperature must be at least 65 degrees. From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the temperature must be at least 68.
Most of the other jurisdictions have similar requirements, but you should go to their websites, because each is just a little different. Cedarhurst allows the temperature at night to be 62 degrees. Rockville Centre is the same as Nassau County. People living in a multi-family building, such as a condominium or a co-op, with a board and a superintendent, are advised to discuss the temperature with one or both of them. The bylaws and regulations for multi-family buildings can vary, and they may be allowed to establish their own regulations, but tenants have rights that could require the local governing authority to step in.
Single-family rentals and two-family homes whose owners occupy at least half the dwelling are not covered by the regulations.
In spring and fall, when temperatures fluctuate to greater extremes, people pay more attention to their thermostats. They also start asking more about insulation and windows. It isn’t uncommon to get calls from tenants of homes and apartments asking if they can get their landlord to increase the insulation, change the windows or raise the heat. Even though architects and engineers are aware of how it’s possible to save energy by finding ways to improve a building’s composition, the legal aspects are recommended to be handled by the health departments or housing authorities that make the rules and govern your jurisdiction. Good luck!
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