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Massachusetts law about winter heating

A compilation of laws, regulations, and web 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, § 113 Heat in the workplace
Listed workplaces "shall be properly heated during the period from October fifteenth to May fifteenth."

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

105 CMR 410.201 State sanitary code
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.

940 CMR 10 Manufactured housing community regulations

Complaining about your heat in a rental unit
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."

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.

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.

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.
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, 2019
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 forms, eligibility guidelines, and procedures.

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

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: March 27, 2020
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