Can a landlord make you pay for your own heat without notification?

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Can a landlord make you pay for your own heat without notification?

My landlord made me pay for my own heat this past winter. I was never notified this was his intention until after the fact. My heat was always included in my rent in the past. My landlord still charged me the same amount of rent without the heat. I do not have a lease. I am month to month. I am behind on my rent payments because my heat bills were so high. This is due mainly to the fact that my apartment is not winterized. Cold air pours into the apartment through the windows. It is obvious that the windows needed to be fixed. I asked my landlord to fix them, but he never did.

Asked on April 25, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) Generally speaking, if there is no written lease, the terms of the lease can be changed on one month's notice, so with a month's notice, the landlord could amend the lease to require tenant's to pay for  their heat. (This is why you want a written lease; it provides protection against changes like this.) It can't be done after the fact, however, but only on notice.

2) A landlord must supply rental premises that are safely inhabitable; this is called the "implied warranty of habitability." It is possible that sufficiently unwinterized or uninsulated or badly mainted windows could be a violation of this. If the landlord will not voluntarily make this change, you may be able to bring a legal action to force thim to make the repairs. If possible, you should consult with an attorney about how best to go about  doing this, and also whether you can recover any of the money you paid for heat prior to getting proper notice of a lease change.


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