heater.jpgI live in an apartment that does not have adequate heating. The house doesn’t have gross violations; there isn’t mold, leaks, or gaping holes in the walls or windows. However, it is really drafty and the building is old so it does not keep out the cold.

There are wall heaters in each of the rooms, but they are electric, so we have to keep them on 24 hours a day to even come close to the 68F degrees law. Our PG&E bill is astronomical! It often doesn’t stay at 68 degrees during the day. When I complained to the property manager about it he said that they could come and put in more electric heaters, but this would only raise our PG&E bill even more.

Is there any law that requires landlords to provide affordable heating?

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Are you a renter with questions? Dave’s got answers, at tenant@sfappeal.com

Ha, like the law that requires landlords to provide affordable housing?

First, thanks for checking the Tenants Union site, as you linked to above. The TU is a good place to go for in-depth tenant counseling. As we discussed, your question is a good one because there should be a law requiring landlords to provide affordable heating because affordable heating is also energy efficient heating.

That your property manager so readily offered to install more electric heaters gives me pause. How are they going to install them and wire them to the existing ones? I wonder if the heaters are legal in the first place.

When we corresponded, you mentioned that your unit had been remodeled a couple of years ago. I’m wondering if the landlords applied for the proper permits to install the heaters. You can go online to the Department of Building Inspection Online Permit and Complaint Tracking to check out building and electrical permits for your address. BTW, tenants should always use this site to check out complaints on a given address before they rent. This site is a great Cheese Ball detector.

As I discussed in a previous column, “Wet, Cold and Moldy,” California Civil Code 1941.1 requires that a dwelling unit be weather tight. You don’t have to demonstrate gaping holes, leaks or mold for a unit to be in violation. In San Francisco many old building are drafty because the old double hung windows are not sealing correctly. Often that occurs because the windows are rotten or the glazing has fallen out. Buildings are also drafty because they are not insulated. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for landlords to insulate before they can rent a unit for a modest $4,500 per month.

Because you have already informed the property manager about the problem, I think you should lodge a complaint with a housing inspector at the DBI and arrange an inspection of your unit to see if there are any housing code violations. Then you can file a petition at the Rent Board for a decrease in services based on the fact that your landlord violated the implied warranty of habitability in your lease.

Generally, in San Francisco, it’s not a good idea to rent an apartment in an old building that has electric heat unless it’s considerably cheaper than other comparable units. Electric wall or baseboard heaters are often indicative of Cheese Ball landlords too cheap to repair an old heating system that, once upon a time, actually worked.

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

the author

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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  • cedichou

    I know of units for which NoV have been issued because of a central heater (and no heaters in the bedroom). So yeah, he should call DBI and have an inspector visit. It’s free. Also, if the inspector write a NoV, the owner cannot retaliate against the tenant. So there’s no downside.

  • cedichou

    I know of units for which NoV have been issued because of a central heater (and no heaters in the bedroom). So yeah, he should call DBI and have an inspector visit. It’s free. Also, if the inspector write a NoV, the owner cannot retaliate against the tenant. So there’s no downside.

  • antfaber

    It’s the law. “Heat is an essential housing service that a landlord is required by law to provide to all tenants. The San Francisco Housing Code requires that a permanent heating source be provided that is capable of maintaining a temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit in all habitable rooms, excluding bathrooms and hallways. The Housing Code specifically requires this level of heat to be provided 13 hours a day, from 5 AM to 11 AM and also from 3 PM to 10 PM. The landlord does not comply with these requirements by allowing or providing portable space heaters.”
    from http://www.sfrb.org/index.aspx?page=980

  • antfaber

    It’s the law. “Heat is an essential housing service that a landlord is required by law to provide to all tenants. The San Francisco Housing Code requires that a permanent heating source be provided that is capable of maintaining a temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit in all habitable rooms, excluding bathrooms and hallways. The Housing Code specifically requires this level of heat to be provided 13 hours a day, from 5 AM to 11 AM and also from 3 PM to 10 PM. The landlord does not comply with these requirements by allowing or providing portable space heaters.”
    from http://www.sfrb.org/index.aspx?page=980