Massachusetts law about winter heating

Laws, regulations, cases, and both web and print sources on legal requirements for winter heat, and sources of assistance.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Minimum heat requirements

Oct. 15-May 15  At work

Workplace

MGL c. 149, § 5 Investigations of industrial conditions; complaints; prosecutions
The Attorney General receives complaints for violations of workplace conditions and may investigate and prosecute them.

MGL c. 149, § 113 Heat in the workplace
Listed workplaces "shall be properly heated during the period from October fifteenth to May fifteenth."

File a workplace complaint, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
Online form and instructions for filing a workplace complaint.

Minimum heating guidelines, Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards.
Outlines the minimum temperatures required in various types of workplaces. 

 

Sept. 15 - May 31  At home

Residential

MGL c. 186, § 14 Landlord of dwelling or manufactured home required to supply heat; penalties for violation listed

105 CMR 410 State sanitary code

  • 410.160 Portable space heaters do not meet the requirement of the regulation and cannot be used
  • 410.180 Temperature requirements
    Regulation requires temperatures of at least 64 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 68 degrees during the day from September 15 to May 31. Temperatures should not exceed 78 degrees. A Board of Health may alter the heating season to start September 30 and end May 15, so check the applicable municipality website for notice.
  • 410.620(B)(3) Right of occupant to have inspection due to complaint for lack of heat
  • 410.630(A)(2) Failure to provide heat is a condition deemed to endanger health and safety
  • 410.640 If a dwelling does not comply with the State Sanitary Code by providing heat, the local board of health (within 12 hours after an inspection) will order the owner to make a good faith effort to correct the violation within 24 hours

940 CMR 10.03(3) Manufactured housing community regulations

The Attorney General’s guide to landlord and tenant rights 
Minimum heat requirements are part of the state Sanitary Code. If a landlord does not respond to a tenant’s complaints about a Sanitary Code violation, the tenant may request a code enforcement officer or the local board of health inspect the apartment. Find your local board of health or inspectional services department to register a complaint about lack of heat in rental property.

Options if your landlord refuses to make repairs, Mass. Legal Help, 2017. 
"If your landlord does not make repairs after you have either notified her in writing or she has been ordered by the Board of Health to make repairs, you may need to consider other options, such as withholding your rent, making repairs and deducting the cost from your rent, working with other tenants to put pressure on the landlord, taking your landlord to court, or breaking your lease."

What are the Massachusetts heat laws? MassLandlords.net, updated May 1, 2023.
A concise overview of a landlord’s responsibility for providing heat.

Long Term Care Facilities 

105 CMR 150.017(B)(14) "Every facility shall be equipped with a heating system that is sufficient to maintain a minimum temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the facility at all times at winter temperatures. Portable space heaters are prohibited." (Note: This regulation applies to facilities built before March 19, 1968.)

105 CMR 150.700(A) Heating and air conditioning systems
Heating system must maintain a minimum temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit at winter design temperatures.

Schools

603 CMR 18.04 (7) Rooms occupied by students shall be maintained at not less than 68 degrees

Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities

105 CMR 164.103 Must comply with State Sanitary Code minimum standards of fitness for human habitation 105 CMR 410

Selected cases

Restrictions on heat shut-off

MGL c. 164, § 124F Shutting off gas or electric service used for heading due to financial hardship is not permitted from November 15 to March 15

220 CMR 25.03 Utility shutoff procedures
Provides particular protection to infants, the elderly, and seriously ill people during the winter.

What to do when the heat goes off, A. Joseph Ross, 2016.
Information for tenants on what to do if you have an isolated problem or if your heat is chronically not working.

When am I protected from having my utilities shut off?, Attorney General's Consumer Advocacy & Response Division.
"Under certain conditions, your utilities may not be shut off, even if you haven’t or can’t pay your bill."

Winter moratorium protection against shutting off heat, Mass. Legal Services, Nov. 2012.
Explains the provisions of the law.

Heat assistance

Cold relief brochure (FY2024), Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, 2023.
Includes fuel assistance income eligibility chart, energy saving tips, and information about programs.

Eversource Massachusetts discount rate program
Provides eligibility requirements and application form for residential customers.

Good neighbor energy fund, Salvation Army.
This fund helps qualified Massachusetts residents pay electric, gas, and oil bills when they have financial problems and can't pay their energy bills. Site includes both how to contribute and how to get assistance.

Heating oil contracts guide, Mass. Department of Energy Resources.
Offers questions for consumers to ask about home heating oil contracts and payment options.  Also includes information on oil co-operatives and fuel assistance programs as well as links to household heating costs and consumer tip sheets.

Low income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP), Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities.
"Known commonly as Fuel Assistance, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides eligible households with help in paying a portion of winter heating bills." Site includes everything you need to know about fuel assistance, including eligibility guidelines and service providers by town.

National Grid discount rate application for Massachusetts customers
Online application form for electric and gas discount with eligibility criteria for residential customers.

Utilities advocacy for low-income households in Massachusetts, National Consumer Law Center, 2019.
Online version of the 126-page book, covers obtaining service, restoring service, receiving financial aid, landlord tenant situations and appendices of regulations and sample forms.

File a complaint

Print sources

Consumer law, 4th ed. (Mass. Practice v.36), Thomson Reuters, 2021 with supplement. Section 27:43.

Legal tactics: Tenants’ rights in Massachusetts, 8th ed., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, 2017, Chapter 6 Utilities.

Massachusetts landlord tenant law by George Warshaw, 2d ed., Lexis, 2001 with supplement, sections 16.13 and 16.20.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about winter heating

Last updated: January 25, 2024

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