Information Regarding Heating Requirements in Rental Units

October 21, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2009

Contact: Linda Conti, Phone: (207) 626-8591

Statement of Linda Conti, Chief of Consumer Protection, Office of the Attorney General, Regarding Heating Requirements in Rental Units

In recent days, several confusing pieces of information have come to light regarding heating requirements in rental units.

It is critical for renters and landlords to have access to clear and concise information about their rights and responsibilities regarding adequate heating in rental units during long Maine winters.

Heat must be kept at a healthful level for residents. Landlords must provide tenants with heating systems that are able to heat a unit at 68 degrees, even when outside temperatures dip as low as 20 degrees below zero. Landlords and tenants can enter into agreements, which must be separate from their lease agreements, to maintain an indoor temperature between 62 and 68 degrees. These agreements cannot be entered into if anyone under the age of 5 or over the age of 65 resides in the rental unit.

The Office of the Attorney General advises tenants that if they feel that their apartment is so cold that it is adversely affecting their health, they should contact their landlord and complain. If the landlord refuses to change the temperature, then the tenant should contact a medical professional and get a written notice that their apartment needs to be warmer.

Below are the statutes regarding heating requirements:

14 M.R.S.A. 6021(6)(A)

  1. Heating requirements. It is a breach of the implied warranty of fitness for human habitation when the landlord is obligated by agreement or lease to provide heat for a dwelling unit and: A. The landlord maintains an indoor temperature which is so low as to be injurious to the health of occupants not suffering from abnormal medical conditions; [1983, c. 764, 1 (NEW).] B. The dwelling unit's heating facilities are not capable of maintaining a minimum temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit at a distance of 3 feet from the exterior walls, 5 feet above floor level at an outside temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit; or [1983, c. 764, 1 (NEW).] C. The heating facilities are not operated so as to protect the building equipment and systems from freezing. [1983, c. 764, 1 (NEW).] Municipalities of this State are empowered to adopt or retain more stringent standards by ordinances, laws or regulations provided in this section. Any less restrictive municipal ordinance, law or regulation establishing standards are invalid and of no force and suspended by this section. Sec. 1. 14 MRSA 6021, sub-6-A is enacted to read: 6-A. Agreement regarding provision of heat. A landlord and tenant under a lease or a tenancy at will may enter into an agreement for the landlord to provide heat at less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The agreement must: A. Be in a separate written document, apart from the lease, be set forth in a clear and conspicuous format, readable in plain English and in at least 12-point type, and be signed by both parties to the agreement; B. State that the agreement is revocable by either party upon reasonable notice under the circumstances; C. Specifically set a minimum temperature for heat, which may not be less than 62 degrees Fahrenheit; and D. Set forth a stated reduction in rent that must be fair and reasonable under the circumstances. An agreement under this subsection may not be entered into or maintained if a person over 65 years of age or under 5 years of age resides on the premises. A landlord is not responsible if a tenant who controls the temperature on the premises reduces the heat to an amount less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit as long as the landlord complies with subsection 6, paragraph B or if the tenant fails to inform the landlord that a person over 65 years of age or under 5 years of age resides on the premises. Effective September 12, 2009

-end- Kate Simmons Special Assistant to the Attorney General 6 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333 (207) 626-8577 kate.simmons@maine.gov