April 25, 2018

Suit demands the agency issue rent abatements to residents who went without heat and hot water during the 2017 to 2018 “heat season.”

Willkie and The Legal Aid Society filed a class action complaint on April 12 in the Supreme Court for New York County against the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) demanding that the agency issue rent abatements to all of its tenants who have been denied adequate heat and hot water during the 2017 to 2018 “heat season” and, in particular, during the historically severe winter cold spell that lasted from December 27, 2017 to January 16, 2018.

NYCHA is the New York State agency that owns and operates public housing developments for low- and moderate income New Yorkers in the five boroughs.  For years now, NYCHA has allowed its buildings to fall into disrepair and specifically has failed to maintain its boilers and related equipment necessary to secure consistent heat and hot water to its almost 400,000  tenants.  The situation has become particularly dire during the current heat season:  entire developments, and entire buildings within other developments, were without heat and/or hot water for extended periods, causing residents to resort to self-help by attempting to heat homes with gas ovens, among other measures.  As a landlord, NYCHA is bound by the warranty of habitability implied in every residential lease governed by New York law, which requires the supply of adequate heat and hot water to tenants.  In addition, the City’s Housing Maintenance Code (HMC) mandates that landlords supply heat meeting certain temperature thresholds between October 1 and May 31 when outside temperatures fall below certain thresholds, while the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law requires owners to provide both hot and cold water 24 hours a day.  NYCHA has consistently failed to meet these legal standards, thereby denying at least 80% of its tenants adequate heat and hot water.

The case has garnered substantial press coverage, see “Lawsuit Demands Rebates for New York Public-Housing Residents Who Lacked Heat, Hot Water,” Wall Street Journal, 4/12/18

The matter is being handled by partners Mary Eaton, Wesley Powell and Martin Seidel and associate Samuel Kalar.