Common Problems, Real Answers

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As New York City’s ombudsman and top watchdog, it’s my job to ensure city resources reach all New Yorkers. Below are some questions my office has recently received from the thousands of New Yorkers who turn to our office for help.

Q: It’s getting colder and the heat in my apartment isn’t turning on. I’ve complained to my landlord, but he’s not doing anything about it. What can I do to make sure I have heat this winter?

A:  All landlords are required to provide heat and hot water during heat season, which runs from October to April—without exceptions. This fall, the H.E.A.T (Heat Enforcement for All Tenants) Act that I introduced earlier this year went into effect. The law increases penalties on landlords who fail to provide heat, especially on repeat offenders. If you don’t have heat, notify your landlord or super immediately. If they don’t immediately fix the problem, call 3-1-1 to report the violation. The City’s Housing Department will send out an inspector within 48 hours.

For most landlords, this is enough to convince them to fix the problem. Most landlords, after all, are responsible and want their tenants to stay warm. But for the bad apples out there, calling 3-1-1 seldom gets the job done. I recommend calling the Public Advocate’s Constituent Services Hotline (212-669-7250). Our office can work directly with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to put pressure on the landlord by issuing violations, going door-to-door in the building to document problems and even applying pressure through the media to convince a landlord to follow the law.

Q: Every night while I’m trying to sleep, I hear loud music blaring from restaurants. How can I make this stop and get some rest?

A:  First and foremost, report the problem to 3-1-1—making sure to describe the noise and where it is coming from. If it’s coming from people on the street, 3-1-1 will alert the police—but if the noise is from a restaurant or bar, the problem will be referred to the Environmental Control Board (ECB).  It’s ECB’s job to make sure the establishment stops polluting the neighborhood with excessive noise.  Make sure to get a complaint number from 3-1-1, and if ECB fails to issue a violation or the violation doesn’t end the problem, contact my office (212-669-7250) for additional help.

You should also try attending your local police precinct and community board meetings. Complaints presented at these meetings are formally documented and will have an impact on whether or not these establishments get renewed liquor licenses.