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My commercial landlord is not providing adequate heat. The thermostat is in his building, and many days I get no heat at all.

Mount Sinai, NY |

I am renting a small trailer attached to a larger building, and many days my section gets no heat at all. He keeps the thermostat at 60 degrees, which he feels is adequate, but that leaves me at about 55 or with cold pipes when he leaves.

He says it's my responsibility to put plastic on the windows, seal the vents, holes in the door, broken window, etc. I explained that no matter what I do, if the heat's not on, nothing will make it warm. I don't feel it's my responsibility to make the unit heat-secure.

My business includes painting and giving classes and workshops. I haven't been able to do so because it's too cold. I wear layers and gloves just to keep warm, but I can't paint with gloves on. Keeping his building at 60 doesn't allow the heat to kick on, and I get nothing.

What should I do?

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Attorney answers 2


I would first put all these complaints in writing in a letter to the landlord and demand that the defects be cured. Try to tie each defect to a specific clause in the lease if possible. Although commercial leases are not subject to the same requirements to provide heat during the winter and "implied warranties of habitability" as residential leases, you can probably make some general claims that the landlord is responsible for heat, maintenance of the exterior windows and common areas of your space (unless your lease explicitly says otherwise), and a catchall assertion that the "quiet enjoyment" of the premises is impaired by the landlord's negligent or willful failure to maintain the premises. Send this letter to the landlord certified mail, return receipt requested or some other form or trackable delivery.

I would seriously consider consulting with an attorney and having this letter go out on attorney letterhead, which may be more convincing to your landlord. I would also ask the attorney to consider whether paying rent into his escrow account for the benefit of the landlord might be another practical spur to getting the required maintenance, and defeat an action for an eviction if that's how the landlord chose to respond.

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Dear what should I do?

To start, you could help yourself and purchase a few inexpensive ceramic style heaters and provide some additional heat in your space and for your business, giving classes and workshops, until you are able to resolve the lack of heat issue with the landlord. Doing something on your own, while you and your attorney deal with the landlord should help you in the short term.

New York law does not provide commercial tenants with protection similar to the warranty of habitability for residential tenants. That means, that without statutory imperative, tenants and landlords in New York rely upon their own judgment and experience, and on the advice of their experts and attorneys to negotiate the best terms for the lease that the landlord will accept. A commercial lease will ordinarily provide that the tenant takes the space in an 'As Is" condition and that the tenant is responsible for making repairs inside the rented space. Tenants must negotiate the lease provisions relating to basic services that the landlord must provide and that will include heat and hot and cold water and similar basic services.

The lease ultimately dictates the service of heat, the required indoor temperature, the hours that heat is provided and the days that the landlord must provide heat. So you must look to the lease.

If you rented the trailer in an 'As Is" condition and the lease did not list repairs the landlord must perform before you moved in, then likely the defects you described existed from the start of your tenancy and did not become important until the weather turned cold.

I agree with the recommendations made by Mr. Lebowitz and his suggestions are sound and wise.

But until you are able to kick start your legal team, mitigate your damages.

Ordinary tenant prudence, for renters and home owners alike, suggest that the best way to trap heat and to prevent loss of heat to the outside includes window covers and sealing out drafts and covering broken windows.

To reduce the use of home heating oil, home owners supplement the heat produced by the furnace with small portable electric heat units.

Residential tenants in cold winter climates often delay these protections until it is cold. Cold weather barrier plastic covers are ubiquitous in home improvement centers.

This is a link to home improvement stores near your location:

Good luck.

The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Jack Richard Lebowitz


Mr. Smollens nails it as usual. Good luck!