For Immediate Release - January 24, 2013

Office of Consumer Affairs Reminds Landlords of Heating Requirements in Response to Uptick in Calls to Consumer Hotline

BOSTON - The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation today reminded landlords of their responsibilitiesto provide proper heating to rental properties during the winter months after noticing an increase in consumer complaints over lack of heat during very cold periods.

During the week of January 14, the Office's Consumer Hotline received 20 calls from tenants regarding winter heating. The inquiries and complaints came in from across the Commonwealth, with most callers living in Boston, Fitchburg and Holyoke. Consumers called to ask the best way to make their landlord turn on their heat.

"When we notice a pattern like this, we know there are many, many more consumers who are experiencing the same treatment but are not calling. It is our responsibility to ensure that consumers are aware of their rights," said Undersecretary Barbara Anthony. "We want to make sure landlords are doing what they're supposed to do under state law."

Landlords must provide a heating system for each apartment or one system that services all apartments in good working order. The landlord must pay for the fuel to provide heat and hot water and electricity unless the written rental agreement states that the tenant must pay for these utilities.

Legally, the heating season runs from September 16 through June 14th, during which every room must be heated to between 68˚F and not more than 78˚F between 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and at least 64˚F at all other hours.

Providing a heating system also means supplying tenants with hot water. The landlord must provide enough water – with adequate pressure – to meet tenants' ordinary needs. Tenants can be charged for water costs so long as it is clearly noted in the written rental agreement and there is a separate meter for each unit.

The landlord must also provide the facilities to heat the water at a temperature between 110º F and 130º F. A written tenancy agreement or lease may require tenants to pay for and provide the fuel to heat the water.

Consumers who have a problem with their heat are advised to do the following:

  • Check the thermostat and make sure it is on.
  • Check to make sure there is oil in the tank, or that gas service has not been shut off.
  • Contact the property manager or owner to remedy the problem.
  • If the property manager or owner is unresponsive, contact the local Board of Health to schedule an inspection of the unit. A Board of Health inspector can cite the violation and can then put pressure on the landlord to make sure they fix the issue. The Board of Healthwill also inform the landlord the steps needed to comply with housing laws.
  • Call the Office of Consumer Affairs Consumer Hotline to file a complaint. Consumers can call 617-973-8787, or toll free at 888-283-3757.

ThePatrick-Murray Administration's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office on its blog, onFacebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.