NEW YORK (PIX11) – New York City is not doing enough to address heat complaints made by tenants against private landlords, especially in buildings with the most persistent heat issues year-over-year. 

That’s according to a new report from New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. The report found that the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development is generally effective when it does address heat complaints, but it too often fails to take action.

The report identified 1,077 buildings in New York City where there were more than five heat complaints each winter between 2017 and 2021. Of these 1,077 buildings, more than a quarter (274 buildings) did not receive any enforcement action such as violations, litigation and emergency repairs from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, according to the report.

“The City must turn up the heat on landlords who leave their tenants in the cold,” Lander said in a statement. “The good news here is that our enforcement tools work: when HPD issues violations, sues landlords, does emergency repairs, or installs heat sensors – problems get fixed. But far too often, none of those actions take place even in buildings that are cold year, after-year, after-year.”

The report also found that heat complaints and violations were predominantly concentrated in communities of color. The five community districts with the highest volume of 311 complaints related to a lack of heat are 93% people of color on average, according to the report.

In response to the comptroller report, a Housing Preservation and Development spokesperson said the department always respond to complaints, but not all complaints result in violations if heat is restored.

“The Comptroller’s report demonstrates that our protocols and practices for enforcing the City’s heat laws are improving landlord behavior and protecting tenants’ health and safety,” the spokesperson said. “Simply put: heat complaints decrease in buildings where HPD intervenes, as the report finds. We are reviewing all of the findings and will take the report’s recommendations for even stronger code enforcement into full consideration.”

NYCHA residents plagued by utility outages

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) continues to have problems providing heat and hot water to residents citywide, according to The Legal Aid Society.

The Legal Aid Society found that there were 3,605 total utility outages from Oct. 1, 2021, to May 31, 2022, compared to 2,872 during the previous heat season.

Judith Goldiner, the attorney-in-charge of The Legal Aid Society’s Civil Law Reform Unit, said there are serious problems that exist systemwide.

“While NYCHA has made some improvements to mitigate utility outages, residents still suffer lapses in service on a daily basis,” Goldiner said.

“This moment demands greater attention from Washington, Albany, and City Hall,” Goldiner continued. “We call on President Biden, Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams to allocate significant funding to address NYCHA’s capital needs, which is now tens of billions of dollars and growing each and every day.”

A NYCHA spokesperson said they agree with The Legal Aid Society that NYCHA needs “significant funding to address longstanding public housing capital needs.”

“Utility outages are the direct result of building infrastructure that every year further deteriorates after decades of federal disinvestment. We thank the advocates for calling on our partners for support,” the NYCHA spokesperson said.