Did your landlord leave you in the cold this winter?
If you live in a rental property in East Orange or another city in New Jersey, your landlord has specific responsibilities to keep you and your family safe during the cold winter months. He or she must take preventative steps before the cold sets in to ensure everything on the property runs smoothly throughout the winter. As a tenant, you have a right to have access to heat, and providing it is the responsibility of the property owner.
Did you know that your local government determines the date on which property owners must ensure that the heat in rental properties is on? According to the landlord-tenant law, your city specifies the date dates and required temperatures for heat supply during winter months.
Steps your landlord should have taken
If your landlord failed to make the following precautions before the start of winter, you might have grounds to file a complaint:
- Heating devices: Servicing of boilers and furnaces before the cold sets to ensure that the temperature in your rented home or apartment is at the required level.
- Prevent access to critters: All kinds of creatures might seek the heat of your residence when temperatures drop. For that reason, the property owner must close off gaps around pipes and under doors along with any cracks or crevices of all sizes because small critters like mice can squeeze through quarter-inch holes or even smaller gaps.
- Window and door seals: After inspecting the inside and outside of all doors and windows, including their frames, the property owner must shore up air leaks. He or she must then replace any deteriorating caulk and damaged weather strips.
- Check insulation: Insulation in crawl spaces, attics and the basement can help to maintain heat inside the property, and adequate insulation around water pipes could prevent them from freezing.
- Thermostats: Landlords should replace the batteries of thermostats to prevent them from dying during the winter. This could cause pipes to freeze and leave you without heat.
- Prepare a snow removal plan: Sufficient stock of salt to last through the cold season is crucial, and so is a snow removal plan. The property owner must designate the responsibility for removal within the allowed time as prescribed by city rules.
- Unclog gutters: Gutters clogged with leaves and debris can prevent drainage of melting snow. This could create leaks in the roof, and it might even cause a roof collapse.
- Check tree safety: Branches from trees could break under the weight of snow and cause property damage and personal injury. Entire trees that show rot could fall over under a load of snow and ice.
Your landlord might ask you always to keep the heat on and the faucets dripping to avoid frozen pipes — even when you go away.
Your legal rights
If you or a member of your family suffered injuries or illness due to your landlord’s negligence and lack of proper winter protection, you might be entitled to seek financial relief for unanticipated expenses and other damages. Proving negligence could be challenging, and an experienced East Orange attorney who is up to date on the New Jersey tenant laws might be the best person to approach for support and guidance.