My NJ Landlord Won’t Fix My Heat: What are my Options?

NJ renters rights

It’s the middle of winter and so cold that your teeth begin to chatter the second you step outside. It’s frigid enough that cold air manages to travel into your apartment, chilling you to the bone. You suddenly realize you can see your breath inside your home. Upon checking, you come to the sinking realization that your heat has stopped working – anyone’s worst nightmares at this time of year.

When you contact your landlord, he refuses to repair your heat. Now what?

According to New Jersey State codes and local ordinances, if your lease mandates that the landlord must provide a specific amount of heat, the landlord must grant it to you. Between October 1 and May 1, a landlord is required to provide enough heat to warm a rental space to 68 degrees from the hours of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the apartment must stay at or above 65 degrees.

If you’ve already composed and sent written correspondence to your landlord regarding this issue (keep it professional) with no response, you can take stronger measures. An apartment or rental that is truly uninhabitable simply requires more action.

A few steps you can take include: contacting the local and state building and health inspectors, withholding rent, suing the landlord for the difference between your rent payment(s) and the value of the faulty premises, or you can simply move out. Keep in mind that these are “big stick remedies” and should only be taken if your apartment is completely uninhabitable.

Before you employ one of the aforementioned tactics, make sure a few other conditions are met.

  • Assure that the problem is not just one that annoys you, but actually puts your health and safety at risk.
  • Be sure that you or a guest did not cause the issue, either on purpose or by accident.
  • Follow all procedures according to state rules, such as allowing sufficient time for your landlord to be notified and fix the issue.
  • Make sure that you have no violations or unresolved issues between you and your landlord. You cannot legally withhold rent if you are already behind on payments or are violating any aspect of your lease.

Additionally, be aware that you run the risk of your landlord prematurely terminating your lease, increasing your rent, or evicting you immediately. The potentially for these outcomes depends on the specific wording of your lease and the details of your unique situation. Avoid making rash decisions and be sure to compose yourself before approaching your landlord in person. Handling the situation in the most professional manner will only benefit you in the long run.

If you choose to contact the agency that is in charge of enforcing the local or state housing law, keep in mind that the helpfulness of the inspector can vary. The inspector will typically come and inspect the rental space, and if an issue is found, a notice of violation (with a deadline) will be issued to the landlord. Typically, the deadline to fix the problem is 30 to 60 days.

If your heat stops working, and your landlord won’t fix it, Veitengruber Law can help. It’s important to consult with us as soon as possible so that we can advise you and take action in a timely manner. We don’t want you to continue living in uninhabitable conditions! Please consider the severity of the issue, and if possible, stay with friends of family until the situation has been resolved. Call us today to consult FREE of charge.