Heat Season

5 Biggest Beefs Tenants Have in NYC (1 is surprising and kind of sweet)

 
Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 6.54.49 PM.png
 

If you're a tenant in NYC, chances are you've had beef with somebody in your building.  At homeBody, we come across a lot of challenging situations that people go through living together. We thought we'd share the top 5 that come up a lot and pass along some general suggestions about how to address them. (There's a common theme that you will surly pick up on.)

1. Absent landlord

"I lived in this place in Astoria where the landlord lived upstairs, I saw him in the hallway everyday, he said hi and was friendly, but he never got back to me when I had a problem. It was like he didn't know I lived there when I needed the toilet fixed." - Erik, N. 

This is number 1 for a reason. In a perfect world, your landlord would be as responsive as a 5-star resort. The truth is, some just want to do the minimum to keep their investment income coming in. Some property management companies are awesome, some landlords are awesome, but a lot are absent, surly, or slow moving. 

Suggestion: The more you work with your neighbors to communicate as a group, the more likely you'll get a better response from your landlord. Good old-fashioned organizing is the best way to change the status quo in your building if you're unhappy with it.

2. Heat and hot water

"My wife and I are basically boiling in our apartment cuz we're on the first floor. The neighbor at the top of the building is this old guy who always complains that it's too cold." - Zach G.

We were somewhat surprised that this was as high in our poll, but the above quote sheds some light as to why.  Providing heat and hot water is a major legal requirement for landlords, and we really don't see too many people complain that either is missing entirely. But we do see people complain that either there isn't enough or there's too much.

Suggestion: If you're not getting heat or hot water call your landlord or call 311. That's unacceptable. But if you're getting 'too much', finding out if your neighbors are having the same problem is the surest way to get action taken by your landlord. Chances are, you're not alone, so band together.

3. Neighbors are noisy

"I lived below these guys who were bartenders, young guys. They came home at crazy hours, had people over at crazy times. We kept telling them to get carpeting and take their shoes off, but it didn't stop until they moved." - Rachel F.

This is the classic case of neighbor-on-neighbor beef.  The truth is there aren't too many simple answers here because a lot of these things are subjective. Landlords don't have the time or interest (or responsibility) to intervene against/between people and it seems particularly hard to enforce leases for small things like carpeting. Not too mention a lot of NYC buildings (old or new) were simply not built with the tenant's peace-of-mind in mind.

Suggestion: Building a relationship with your neighbors ahead of the 3AM broom pounding is really the only way to avoid many of these conflicts. It won't always prevent them, but it can create a common dialogue that establishes trust and respect. That makes legitimate complaints easier to address and to resolve when they come up.

4. Packages clutter the hallway or get lost

"I've gone door to door asking neighbors if they have seen my package. We've all had meetings asking the property management company to install cameras so things don't disappear but nothing happens. I have to get things delivered to the office." - Steph R.K.

With Amazon and Jet fundamentally changing shopping, this problem is getting worse each year. Packages pile up and it's easy for things to get lost (or stolen in extreme cases.)

It's difficult to reverse engineer a more lasting solution, particularly in older buildings with narrow hallways and no lobbies. Landlords don't want to be responsible for packages and don't want to allow easy access for delivery guys for understandable security reasons.

Suggestion: Establishing a simple line of communication between neighbors could go a long way of fostering a more communal approach to package delivery. Finding out if a neighbor is home at a certain time to buzz in a package or to sign for something can save a lot of time and lost stuff, especially if there's an easy way to track the conversation.

5. Not knowing neighbors

So this is the one that was sweet and actuallynot that surprising to me (sorry for the clickbait title). As much as NYC gets the rep for being a keep-to-yourself town, the reality is that people want to know who they live with. 

We found out that there is a genuine interest, especially among tenants who have been in their apartments for a few years to form meaningful relationships with their neighbors. The problem is how weird it is to try to introduce yourself when you've missed that initial window of moving in.

This isn't a homeBody anecdote, but a personal one. Living in Stuytown during Superstorm Sandy, we lost power for 9 days. There are a lot of older residents in the complex and it was pretty cold that week.  The Tenants Association and Councilmen Dan Garodnick organized a door-to-door neighbor-to-neighbor reach out to make sure we got to all 11,400 apartments. It was one of the most inspiring things that I've ever been a part of, honestly. It also brought my closer to a lot of neighbors that I'm still in touch with.

Suggestion: You don't need (or want) something like Sandy to bring you and your neighbors together, but you should make the effort all the same. You're already sharing a physical place, making that extra connection means turning a place into a home.  All of the problems our members run into really are easier to solve when you know the people who you live with a little better.

 

homeBody is the free communication app for landlords, tenants, and neighbors.

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3 Ways Landlords Can Save Money on Heating Bills (and Save the Planet)

 
Space heaters ain't cutting it (shanleystudios)

Space heaters ain't cutting it (shanleystudios)

 

Recently, we gave landlords the head's up about Heat Season starting Oct 1. This week, we're going to focus on how you can save money on your heating system.  Some ideas will probably be nagging points that you've heard before, but others might surprise you.

1. Hear Your Tenants

Last week we mentioned that you should consider your tenants your first line of defense. We mean that (it's pretty much our thing.) Good communication with tenants might alert you to a problem before it costs you a lot of money. If you encourage your tenants to reach out to you, here are some things they might tell you about your heating system:

Pipes clanking -  When water builds up over time in pipes and comes into contact with hot steam, it bursts (it's called a "water hammer").  At best, this means your system isn't operating efficiently and at worst it means your pipes could be damaged to the point of replacement.

Wild temp differences -  Upstairs is freezing, downstairs is boiling.  It's common, but could be a big problem: your heat timer is broken and/or needs to be reset. Your system is working overtime to produce heat that isn't getting distributed properly or at all. 

Funny smells - We all remember the East Village gas explosion in 2015.  Make it easy for your tenants to tell you something is out of the ordinary and make sure you or your tenants quickly report it and contact ConEd.  Wasting money is one thing, wasting lives is another.

 
Chances are you have steam (energy.gov)

Chances are you have steam (energy.gov)

 

2. Clean and Inspect

Heating systems are a complex matrix of machinery and good old fashioned science.  It's actually pretty fascinating when you think about how they work. But they age, get dirty, and break down.

Without proper maintenance you lose money twice - first on inefficiency and second on expensive equipment replacement.  Maintenance isn't sexy, but it's savvy. 

An old system can still work well if it's clean. So use data from tenants to help identify what parts of your system need attention.  Scheduling a deep clean for your system at least once a year (off-season) is a great way to increase fuel efficiency and extend the life of your system. 

Additionally, the city has to inspect your boiler, but there are other parts of your system (the outdoor weather-head, pressure and temperature controls, return-line sensor) that you should also get inspected annually. 

Stay ahead of these issues by setting up personal reminders to check these instruments. The bare minimum of system maintenance gets the bare minimum of system efficiency. 

 
50% of the energy used in multi-family buildings goes to heating (nycmayorsoffice)

50% of the energy used in multi-family buildings goes to heating (nycmayorsoffice)

 

3. Upgrade for the Environment

A 2015 report states that the energy NYC buildings use accounts for 75% of the cities' greenhouse emissions - and 50% of that energy goes to heating.  

It also says that NYC landlords could save $147 million annually by taking small steps to improve their heating systems.

The city has set up the NYC Retrofit Accelerator to help landlords find ways to improve their buildings heating system. 

Some solutions are bigger projects like downsizing your boiler or transitioning to other fuels, but others are small and high-impact.  Installing heat sensors and smart thermostats to control distribution, or better insulation can improve efficiency. 

Even involving your tenants can help. Installing a simple orifice plate in each unit's radiator takes 5 minutes and can lower costs while providing tenants with greater discretion on heating their apartment. Asking them about this could save you a lot of money and help all of you save the planet!

 

 

homeBody is the free communication app for landlords, tenants, and neighbors

NYC Landlords, Heat Season Begins Oct 1: Do You Know the Laws Changed?

 
It's coming sooner than you think (ryanshanley/shanleystudio)

It's coming sooner than you think (ryanshanley/shanleystudio)

 

For the average person, the term “heat season” might bring on thoughts of heading to the beach, loading up on sunblock, and eating gelato. It’s the opposite for landlords. For you, it means the weather is turning cold and it's time to turn on your building’s heat.

Whether you’re a first time landlord or a grizzled professional, there are a few new things you should know about this upcoming 2017 heat season.

1. The Temperature Requirements are Higher

Heat season is October 1st — May 31st. Legally, you are required to turn on your building’s heat during this period. You already know that. But make sure you know the new night time requirements:

Day Time 6AM — 10PM: If the outside temperature is below 55 F, the inside-apartment temperature must be 68 F.

Night Time 10PM — 6AM: As of this season, the inside temperature at night must be above 62 F regardless of what temperature it is outside.

TIP: Take a picture of your thermostat for your records whenever you can. It's low-tech, but can cut down on potential conflicts with tenants and can help you track your system’s efficiency.

(NYCHPD)

(NYCHPD)

2. The Inspection Process Has Also Changed

The city requires an annual inspection for your boiler if your building is mixed-use or has 6 or more families. You have to have an inspection done by someone licensed from the DOB or an authorized insurance company.

As of August 14, 2017, you can no longer submit your inspection reports by person. They must be submitted online at DOB NOW: Safety.

TIP: You should also schedule additional maintenance inspections with experts. Whether you use oil or natural gas or your system is steam or water, chances are soot is building up that could damage your equipment.

 
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3. Know the Fines If You Don’t Comply

Tenants have a right to heat and hot water. If they don’t have adequate heat, and they can’t get in touch with you to fix it, they will likely call 311. HPD will try to reach out to you, but generally they will set up an inspection.

If you haven’t restored heat or met the temperature requirements, HPD will issue a violation, which is almost always followed up by a court proceeding. You could be subject to significant civil penalties:

  • $250 — $500 each day per violation until a follow up inspection

  • $500 — $1000 each day per subsequent violation

  • $200 per additional inspection after the first two

 

TIP: Think of your tenants as your first line of defense! Their feedback/complaints are frontline reports about your heating system. Make it easy to reach you before they reach for 311.

 

Next week, we’ll tell you how you can save money on your heating costs — and help the environment.

 homeBody is the free communication app for landlords, tenants, and neighbors.