Q: My rent-stabilized one-bedroom, where I’ve lived for 40 years, has never had air-conditioning. The wiring is so old that a window unit would blow the fuses. Is the landlord required to supply adequate wiring to support an air-conditioner, or am I destined to spend another summer in front of a fan?
A: As hot as August in New York may be, landlords are not obligated to supply air-conditioning, unless the lease requires it. And the building code does not require an owner to upgrade the electrical system to increase capacity, unless some other work was done that would require it.
But you are not necessarily out of options. A landlord must keep your apartment relatively safe, so you may be able to argue that the limited electrical capacity creates an unsafe condition and request an upgrade, said David Hershey-Webb, a partner at the Manhattan law firm Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph. Another route he suggested: If you have a disability exacerbated by the heat, the landlord would be required to make a reasonable accommodation, like installing air conditioning. If he fails to do so, you could report the condition to the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Q: I own a co-op apartment in Midtown Manhattan. Last fall, our new managing agent told us that we have to remove our air-conditioning units for the winter and then pay to have them reinstalled in the summer. Is this legal? And can they really charge us?
A: Installing a window unit is a miserable chore, but some apartment buildings do require residents to take theirs out every winter, according to Lisa A. Smith, a real estate lawyer and partner in the Manhattan office of the law firm Smith, Gambrell and Russell. Usually, management arranges for storage and reinstallation in the summer.
Management may be concerned about losing heat in the winter through the gaps between the unit and the window. Or, perhaps it worries about heavy snow causing a unit to fall from the window and crash to the street.
Some buildings do pass installation or storage costs onto residents, but those are usually rentals, not condos or co-ops. Ask the new management to explain its reasoning for the policy, and for the fees. Ask your neighbors to do the same. However, “provided there is a good-faith basis for the requirement, and the fee is not excessive, the building may be within its rights to have such a policy,” Ms. Smith said.
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