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The heating season's here: What owners should know.

"Provide heat and hot water or else" is the message coming from the New York City Housing and Preservation Department (HPD) to the city's apartment building owners.

But as the heating season opened on October 1ST with a chill, HPD advised that if equipment needs replacement, there are at least six low-costloan programs available to help, including a new one called the Code Compliance Loan Program that is "quick and easy."

HPD spokesperson Carol Abrams says the new loan program is targeted to help people remove violations, which of course, includes heat and hot water violations. "There is no application fee jand there's a quicker turnaround," she said of this program.

Through May 31,2000, when the outdoor temperature fai1s below 55 degrees, building owners are required to maintain an indoor temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in residential apartments.

From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when the outdoor temperature falls below 40 degrees, the indoor temperature of the apartments must be kept at least 55 degrees.

There is no heating requirement for hallways.

Tenants are being instructed by city informational bulletins to first notify the building owner, managing agent or superintendent. But if heat is not restored, tenants can notify the city at the 24-hour Central Complaint Bureau at (212) 960-4800, or via the Text Telephone TTY at (212) 316-8295.

"The first question they will ask the tenant is if they have notified the owner," said Frank Ricci, director of government affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), the city's largest owners' group which represents some 25,000 area building owners. "Then they will ask how long ago they notified the owner."

In the past, owners were not notified first, delaying the restoration of services and causing violations to be placed on buildings that could have quickly and easily been cured by the owner.

Now, inspectors are not sent out for about 24-hours, Ricci said, so the owner has an opportunity to correct minor problems without receiving a violation.

HPD is supposed to callback the tenant to see if service has been restored before sending an inspector, Which usually happens within 48 hours. When the temperature drops, however, heat complaints rise, and often, so does the response time of the inspectors.

The year before, in January 1997, the temperature dropped to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, and on that day alone the emergency operators handled 3,004 calls.

Last year HPD conducted 51,503 heat and hot water inspections that resulted in 11,597 violations.

Once issued a violation the tine for noncompliance is $250 per day per violation, each and every day the building is without heat. "

Owners should immediately check their current 24-hour contact number listed on the multiple dwelling, registration forms to ensure they are up to date. This way they can be notified and have an opportunity to conduct their own repair work before an emergency crew is sent in.

If owners fail to do the work, and when HPD cannot reach the building contact number, the Emergency Repair Program (ERP) sends HPD staff or private contractors to make the repairs to restore the essential services. These costs are billed to the owner and become a lien on the property. During fiscal year 1999 HPD spent $8.8 million on such repairs.

For owners who are sincere about providing the services, but lack the required knowledge and training, the Housing Litigation Bureau administers an alternate heat training program for first-time violators which of training rather than fines.

Last year, HPD contacted owners who had received violations the previous winter and offered training sessions on proper heating plant operations, as well as information on how to responsibly reduce heating maintaining adequate heat services.

HPD monitored these owners, and if additional violations were imposed, they were subject to strong litigation and penalties. They will continue to be monitored for other code violations this year.

During last winter's heating season, 1,800 heat offenders were taken to court, resulting in the collection of $1 million in fines by the city.

Over the summer, HPD spokesperson Abrams said 1,700 summer boiler inspections were conducted on the same premises as a follow-up to ensure repairs were made.

Hot water violations are imposed when the hot water does not reach 120 degrees. But if the owner renovates certain bathroom or other plumbing fixtures, replacements typically have to have an anti-sealding device that keeps the temperature from going above 120 degrees.

"Inspectors will not conduct a hot water temperature test on a fixture with, an anti-scalding device to see if the minimum is being met," explained Dan Margulies, executive director of the Community Housing and Improvement Program, known as CHIP, a middle market owners group. The inspector, instead, would test another device to see if the owner was providing the minimum water temperature.

Such a line is also considered a Class C violation, and could result in a $250 a day fine.

Owners who want to learn more about their heat and hot water systems, or other apartment maintenance and finance topics, can call HPD's Housing Education Program at (212) 863-8830 for information on free classes.
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:WEISS, LOIS
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 13, 1999
Words:864
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