Below freezing temperatures are common during New York City winters. January and February, the coldest months, can regularly dip down into the single digits, or even reach negative temperatures at night. Poorly insulated buildings, neglect by building owners, and unfair practices all too often leave residents quite literally in the cold.
The lack of heat can incentivize the use of faulty space heaters or other risky techniques to keep warm. Winter also brings with it other fire safety challenges, such as an increased use of candles, and dry combustible materials like pine boughs being stored in indoor spaces. As such, the risk for fires can be greater during the winter. New Yorkers should understand how to use appliances, candles, and similar objects safely during these months as well as familiarize themselves with the fire prevention measures their landlords should be following.
What Are New York City’s Heat Regulations?
New York City heat regulations established that landlords are required to heat indoor spaces. The minimum acceptable temperature between 6 am and 10 pm is 68 degrees Fahrenheit, once the outdoor temperature dips below 55 degrees. When the weather dips below 40 outside, indoor spaces must be kept at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit between 10 pm and 6 am.
If your heat is not on or does not seem to be working and the temperatures outside are dropping, your landlord must fix the problem and keep your living space warm and safe. If they are not responding, you can report the situation to 311. This New York City hotline has advocates available to help get your heat turned back on. 311 is also available to help those who are having difficulty paying for heat or repairing heating equipment.
Until your heat is restored, use alternative sources of heat as safely as possible. Refer to the tips below to help stay warm and safe.
Tips to Stay Warm Safely During a New York City Winter
While it may be tempting to use space heaters and candles to keep warm during the colder months, the improper use of these devices can also dramatically increase your fire safety risk. Half of all home heating fires occur during the months of December, January, and February. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one in every seven home fires, and tragically one in every five home fire deaths, involves heating equipment.
Of heating equipment, electric space heaters are generally associated with some of the highest levels of risk. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that space heaters cause on average 1,200 fires per year. You should always read all of the directions on your individual unit before use. Some other best practices for space heaters, electric blankets, candles, and more include:
- Use your space heater on the floor. Putting your space heater on a flat, even surface with ventilation can help keep it functional and upright.
- Do not use a space heater near water. As with all electricity, water creates the risk of shock. For this reason, do not use space heaters in the bathroom.
- Never leave a space heater or candle unattended. Someone should always be present when a space heater or candle is in use. Never leave a space heater plugged in and on during the day in place of central heating.
- Never use an extension cord with a space heater. Always inspect the electrical cord of a space heater to make sure it is fully intact and undamaged before plugging it in and turning it on.
- Keep young children and pets far away from space heaters. This can avoid the risk of burns as well as the danger that they may tip over the device.
- Use the “three-feet rule.” Keep all space heaters, candles, and other sources of heat or fire at least three feet away from flammable material. This involves wood, plants, bedding, or furniture.
- Turn off a space heater or electric blanket before going to sleep. While automatic shutoff is a useful feature, turning off and unplugging a heating device is much safer.
Could Your New York City Landlord Be Held Liable for a Fire?
In addition to providing heat and ensuring tenants do not feel like they need to resort to space heaters, ovens, and other unsafe heating methods to stay warm, landlords and property owners are also required to take basic measures to help prevent a fire from occurring and/or from injuring tenants.
These fire prevention and safety measures may include the following:
- Installing smoke detectors in each unit, including one within 15 feet of each lawfully permitted bedroom
- Regularly maintaining electrical wiring throughout the building
- Ensuring fire escapes, hallways, and similar exits are clear of any obstacles
- Installing self-closing doors in buildings with at least three units
- Installing fire sprinklers and fire alarms throughout the apartment building
- Providing fire extinguishers throughout the building
- Providing tenants with a fire escape plan detailing safe exits to use in the event of a fire
If a property owner failed to follow reasonable fire safety measures and you or a loved one were injured in a fire as a result, you may be eligible for compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.
Injured in a Fire? Shulman & Hill is Here to Help
Stay safe and warm this holiday season. When using space heaters or other supplementary heat sources, like electric blankets or candles, follow best practices and read the device’s directions carefully.
If you are ever injured in a fire and your landlord failed to take reasonable measures to prevent it from occurring, you may be entitled to compensation. The fire and burn injury lawyers at Shulman & Hill are here to help you pursue compensation and justice for your injuries and losses. Contact us for a free legal consultation to learn more.