No one likes a sweltering apartment. It can be hard to find relief, and difficult to sleep in extreme heat and humidity. That’s just the beginning, though. An overly hot apartment isn’t just an annoyance – it can be dangerous, and even deadly.
Thanks to record heat waves, New York has recently seen a rash of heat-related illnesses, particularly in lower-income areas where apartments are less likely to be air conditioned.
Although New York housing regulations do not specifically require air conditioning, a sweltering apartment can still be considered an unsafe living condition, and it may be possible to hold your landlord liable for heat-related illnesses and injuries, including heat stroke.
Below, we cover the dangers of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses and injuries, and how to hold your landlord accountable for unsafe living conditions.
What Is Heat Stroke?
When your body can no longer maintain its basal temperature due to overheating, it begins to shut down in a condition known as heat stroke. Heat stroke can be fatal, and it is always considered a medical emergency.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Lack of perspiration in hot conditions
Heat Stroke and Hot New York Apartments
If apartments are not air conditioned, they may become dangerously hot in peak summer weather. In fact, the most dangerous place to be during a heatwave is a non-mobile home with little or no air conditioning.
As temperatures rise and extreme weather events such as heat waves increase, heat-related illnesses are expected to increase dramatically.
An unairconditioned apartment can easily reach over 100 degrees during the day, and it may remain in the upper 90s throughout the night. These conditions are dangerous, and lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke.
Are NY Landlords Liable for Heat-Related Illnesses?
As mentioned above, although New York housing regulations do not currently require air conditioning specifically, landlords are still required to provide a safe, clean, and livable environment. This is known as the warranty of habitability.
New York housing code specifically states that an apartment must have regular hot water and heating. However, if an apartment reaches unreasonably high temperature that can be considered unsafe and not livable, this also breaches the warranty of habitability, and your landlord is obligated to rectify the problem.
Further, if the unsafe condition results in an illness or injury, your landlord may be held liable for these damages under premises liability laws.
Holding Your Landlord Accountable in New York
If you feel that your apartment is unreasonably hot, provide a written notice of the conditions, and keep proof that you have provided this notice. Certified letters are most effective, and email may also work, especially if your landlord replies confirming that the notice was received.
You can also withhold rent and refuse to pay until repairs are made, but you risk being sued for unpaid rent. However, you would in this case be able to counter sue for breaching the warranty of habitability.
You may be able to make the repairs yourself and subtract reasonable repair costs from your rent payment, but this is also risky. You should only do this after notifying your landlord in writing of the conditions and allowing a reasonable opportunity for the landlord to make the necessary repairs.
If the unsafe condition results in an illness or injury, be sure to document both the injury and the conditions that you feel led to the injury. You will then be able to fight to recover damages through a premises liability suit.