Can a landlord make you pay for your own heat without notification?

UPDATED: Apr 25, 2011

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Can a landlord make you pay for your own heat without notification?

My landlord made me pay for my own heat this past winter. I was never notified this was his intention until after the fact. My heat was always included in my rent in the past. My landlord still charged me the same amount of rent without the heat. I do not have a lease. I am month to month. I am behind on my rent payments because my heat bills were so high. This is due mainly to the fact that my apartment is not winterized. Cold air pours into the apartment through the windows. It is obvious that the windows needed to be fixed. I asked my landlord to fix them, but he never did.

Asked on April 25, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) Generally speaking, if there is no written lease, the terms of the lease can be changed on one month's notice, so with a month's notice, the landlord could amend the lease to require tenant's to pay for  their heat. (This is why you want a written lease; it provides protection against changes like this.) It can't be done after the fact, however, but only on notice.

2) A landlord must supply rental premises that are safely inhabitable; this is called the "implied warranty of habitability." It is possible that sufficiently unwinterized or uninsulated or badly mainted windows could be a violation of this. If the landlord will not voluntarily make this change, you may be able to bring a legal action to force thim to make the repairs. If possible, you should consult with an attorney about how best to go about  doing this, and also whether you can recover any of the money you paid for heat prior to getting proper notice of a lease change.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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