What To Do If There's No Heat In Your Apartment
It’s freezing outside. You get home, and you feel it instantly. You call your friend and tell him or her the terrible news: "'There's no heat in my apartment!"
It’s one of the worst things that can happen while renting. Unlike air conditioning, having heat in your apartment or condo is one of the “essential services,” along with running or hot water, electricity, gas or plumbing, listed in the City of Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. So what can you do, and what should you do? This depends on who’s responsible for paying for the heat, which should have been detailed in the lease agreement.
If your landlord is responsible for providing the heat:
- Contact your landlord right away. Often the problem can be solved with a phone call.
- You need to inform your landlord in writing and deliver it to the landlord’s address, and you can do one of the following…
- Contact the utility company (ComEd and/or People’s Gas), pay them to restore the service, keep the receipt and deduct the cost from your rent. Or you can get a space heater in the meantime, keep the receipt and deduct the cost from your rent.
- Move out and stay somewhere else until service is restored. You don’t have to pay rent during this time, and you can deduct the cost of the temporary housing from future rent payments as long as the cost doesn’t exceed your monthly rent.
- If it comes to this, you can sue your landlord. Contact an attorney and recover damages base on the reduced value of your apartment plus attorney’s fees.
- Request in writing that the landlord fix the problem within 24 hours. If he or she doesn’t, you can withhold from your rent a cost that “reasonably reflects the reduced value of its premises,” which means an attorney would help in this case, too.
- In a written notice, request that the landlord fix the problem within 72 hours. If he or she fails to do so, you can terminate your lease. If you do that, you must move out within 30 days or the termination is considered withdrawn.
If you’re responsible for paying for the heat…
- The landlord is responsible for giving you and written statement that sets for the projecting monthly costs for heating your unit.
- Contact the utility company: Comed and/or People’s Gas.
If you honestly don't know and it's the first time anything like this has happened...
- Contact your landlord. He or she is there to help with stuff like this. You're renting their property.
- One last important piece of information. The city of Chicago has guidelines on apartment/apartment building temperatures.
- Chicago municipal code states that from September 15-June 1 landlords and building managers are responsible for maintaining these minimum temperatures in your apartment or apartment building: 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and 66 degrees all other times. If the temperatures are not being met, you can call 311 or contact the city.
For more information on your rights, check out the Metropolitan Tenants Organization.