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A Tenant's Guide to Getting and Keeping Gas and Electricity Service

TenantNet note: This booklet was published by Brooklyn Legal Services in 1995. Some information contained may be out-of-date, particularly listed telephone numbers. As far as we know, there have been no updates to this publication. While much of the information may still be valid, the reader should exercise caution.

XII. How to Get Help from Other City Agencies

A. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development

If your utility service has been shut-off because of the landlord's failure to provide fuel or maintenance, call the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD") and request an inspection. HPD's Central Complaints number is (212) 824-4328. When you call be ready to give the operator the following information:

  1. Your name, address, and phone number;
  2. The name, address and phone number of the landlord or its agent;
  3. A list of conditions (no heat or hot water, for example) that need repair, with the most serious first. Inadequate heat or hot water and lack of electricity should be listed first. From October 1 through May 31, HPD gives priority to heat-related problems including lack of heating fuel and unpaid gas and electricity bills for service used to provide heat or hot water.

Before you get off the phone ask for and write down the identification number of the person to whom you are speaking. You will need to include the number in future communications with HPD.

If several tenants in your building call HPD complaining about the same conditions, you may get a faster response. Do not hesitate to call just because another tenant in your building has called already. The general rule is that the more calls that are made to HPD, the greater the likelihood that you will get results. Follow up your phone call with a letter. Include a description of your utility problem along with the list of other bad conditions in your apartment and building, your name and address, and your landlord's name and address. Be sure to sign the letter, as HPD will not process unsigned complaints. Mail the letter certified, return-receipt-requested to:

Central Complaints Bureau
215 W. 125th Street
New York, NY 10027

If no inspector comes within 24 hours of your first call, call HPD Central Complaints again. Explain that you have already placed a complaint and give the name and number of the operator with whom you spoke. Let HPD know that the problem has not been corrected and repeat your request for an inspection. Ask when the inspector will come. If you are still unsuccessful in obtaining an inspection, contact a local politician or community group for help.

After an inspection has confirmed the lack of utility service or other bad conditions in your apartment and building, HPD will try to contact your landlord and persuade him or her to make repairs. If HPD is not successful, your case may be referred to the agency's Emergency Repairs Program ("ERP").

ERP is the City's team of inspectors, mechanics and contractors who repair conditions that threaten health and safety. The most-serious problems -- such as no heat or no hot water -must be repaired by the landlord within ten days of their discovery by an inspector or ERP will arrange to have the repair work done. If you have a utility problem that ERP designates an emergency and no repair work has begun ten days after an inspection call ERP. The phone number is (212) 316-8283. Ask if they intend to make the repairs and, if so, when they will start. You may need to call frequently to encourage them to work on your emergency.

HPD also operates a utility non-payment division. Referrals to this division come from both utility companies about to terminate utility service and tenants who call Central Complaints. Any tenant threatened with termination of utility service to a building's common area is eligible for help. If a tenant calls HPD and reports having received a termination notice, HPD will confirm the problem with the utility company, pay current charges, and request that it receive copies of future bills. If you need this service and have not received adequate help from Central Complaints, call the HPD utility division directly at (212) 316-8283.

The landlord of your building is charged for any HPD costs and expenses related to their repair of your building. If the landlord fails to pay and you or other tenants in the building receive public assistance ("PA") to pay your rent, HPD may intercept rent payments from the Human Resources Administration Income Support Programs ("HRA") to reimburse itself for the cost of its repairs. This is called an HPD "recoupment."

If you receive PA and your rent is recouped in this way by HPD, you should receive a notice from HRA for every check HPD takes. Keep these notices: they show that you paid rent to HPD instead of to your landlord. You will need this proof of payment if your landlord sues you for the intercepted rent money. You are not liable to the landlord for rent money paid by HRA to HPD. The telephone number of the HPD office that intercepts rent checks is (212) 340-7272. Call if you have any questions regarding an HPD recoupment. HPD will be able to tell you the amount and duration of a recoupment.

B. Buildings Department

The Buildings Department enforces the housing and building laws of New York City. The Department is not directly responsible for utility service and does not make repairs itself. It may, however, help you to get boilers, heaters, gas and electrical systems fixed so that service can be restored. Like HPD, the Buildings Department conducts investigations of apartment buildings and reports serious problems to landlords.

The Brooklyn office of the Buildings Department is located in the Municipal Building, Eighth Floor, Brooklyn, New York 11201. The telephone number for making a complaint is (718) 802-3681.

C. Bureau of Electrical Control

The Bureau of Electrical Control enforces the Electrical Code. If there is a problem with your building's electrical system that your landlord refuses to correct, make a complaint by calling (212) 669-8353 or writing them at 2322 Municipal Building, New York, New York 10007.

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