Massachusetts law about winter heating

A compilation of laws, regulations, web sources, and print sources on legal requirements for winter heat, and sources of assistance.

Table of Contents

Minimum heat requirements

Oct. 15-May 15 At work

Workplace

MGL c.149, § 5 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 - June 15 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

  • 410.200 Portable space heaters do not meet the requirement of the regulation and cannot be used
  • 410.201 Temperature requirements. Regulation requires temperatures of at least 64 degrees at night and 68 degrees during the day from September 15 to June 15. Temperatures should not exceed 78 degrees. There can be exceptions, so be sure to read the regulation for details.
  • 410.830(A)(2) 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 what is called the state Sanitary Code. If a landlord does not respond to a tenant’s complaints about a Sanitary Code violation, the tenant may request that 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 July 21, 2021.
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 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 Facility

105 CMR 164.051 "Each building shall be equipped with a heating system that is sufficient to maintain a minimum temperature of 68° F throughout the building during cold weather. Portable heaters are prohibited."

Selected case law

Berman & Sons v. Jefferson, 379 Mass. 196 (1979)
Rent abatement begins when tenant gives notice to landlord  of State Sanitary Code violations such as loss of heat.

Conroy v. Toomay, 234 Mass. 384 (1920)
The tenant was not responsible for rent under a written lease, because there was a later oral agreement that the landlord would provide adequate heat and failed to do so.

Cruz Management v. Thomas, 417 Mass. 782 (1994)
Tenant was entitled to compensation from landlord for State Sanitary Code violations including inadequate heat.

Layes v. RHP Properties, 95 Mass. App. Ct. 804 (2019)
Operator of a manufactured home community was found responsible for repairing and replacing components of oil heating systems.

Hamilton v. Transportation Management Corp., 10 Mass. App. Ct. 927 (1980)
“Even though the lease required maintenance of a thermostat, the judge found that the removal of the thermostat was not intended to deprive the tenant of the use and enjoyment of its suite.”

Jordan v. Goddard, 14 Mass. App. Ct. 723 (1982)
Landlord was found negligent for injuries suffered by tenant caused by a space heater fire.

McGown v. Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Co., 4 Mass. App. Ct. 813 (1976)
The terms of an insurance policy required heat to be maintained in a building. The insured was entitled to coverage for damage caused by burst pipes in the winter, because the insurance company did not prove the oil tank was empty.

Restrictions on heat shut-off

MGL c.164, § 124F Shutting off gas or electric service during financial hardship

220 CMR 25 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.

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

Heat assistance

Cold relief brochure, Mass. Dept. of Housing and Community Development, 2021.
Includes fuel assistance income eligibility chart, energy saving tips, and information about programs.

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.

Low income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP), Mass. Dept. of Housing and Community Development.
"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. 

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.

Print sources

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

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Last updated: September 23, 2022
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