How warm do landlords have to keep apartments in winter?

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - If you live in a rental space or apartment building where your landlord controls the heat in the winter, you may have wondered: how cold is too cold?

There are rules and regulations in place to protect tenants whose buildings are heated by boiler and radiators, and who don't have control over the thermostat.

In Cleveland Heights, those details are spelled out in a city ordinance, which says landlords must keep every room in the unit at a capacity of 68 degrees. That doesn't mean the rooms must be 68 degrees at all times, only that the heat provided has the ability to reach that temperature.

That rule applies until the temperature drops below minus five degrees, where many boilers don't have the ability to heat at that level.

"In most of our apartments, the actual unit doesn't have control of the heat, so they're relying on the common thermostat, and that's typically in the boiler room," said Chief Housing Inspector David Harris.

Harris says the city will respond in case they get any complaints from renters.

The landlord has 24 hours to fix the problem or explain to the city why they need more time. If not, the landlord could end up in court. Harris says those rules are in place to protect tenants. He says in recent years, most building owners have been quick to repair any problems, but tells us the majority of complaints happen in late fall, when cold temperatures begin to creep in.

"Basically, because the owner of the building is trying to save money, so they don't fire up their boiler until it's absolutely necessary for them to do that, which typically is a couple weeks late," he said.

Ordinances can vary from city to city, but Harris says Cleveland Heights bases their 68-degree benchmark on the Ohio building code, which states that landlords who provide heat as part of the monthly rent must keep the building at a "reasonable temperature."

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