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It's Starting to Cool Down: Do Landlords Have to Provide Heat?

Sure, it's still in the upper 70s and lower 80s during the day, but it's starting to cool off into the 50s at night. Now is the time to start thinking about staying warm this fall and winter.

Why now? Well, now is the time to make sure your heater works so if it needs to be fixed, you have time to get it done before it gets downright frigid. Alas, you and your roommate's body heat won't be enough to keep the pipes from freezing.

But if you're a tenant, who's supposed to pay for your heat anyway?

In any rental situation, there are legal duties that a landlord owes to a renter, and duties a renter owes to a landlord. A renter's main legal duty is to pay the rent; secondary duties include avoiding damage to the home and keeping the premises clean.

The landlord owes the tenant the main duty of providing a habitable premises. This generally means that the apartment or house meets safety and health codes, has running hot and cold water, and that the electrical, plumbing, and heating systems are in working order.

This means that the landlord must have the heater repaired if it is not working or not functioning properly. However, while the language above might sound like the landlord must provide heat, it does not mean that a landlord must pay for the cost of heating.

When you're looking for a rental, it is important to note if the windows are newer and whether the doors shut tightly. Otherwise, you will be paying for heat that escapes from those windows and doors.

If your heater is working, but not well, a landlord may or may not have to pay to replace it. A landlord would likely have to repair a broken or defective heater, but an inefficient heater may not be the landlord's problem unless it does not adequately heat your living space.

If you are unsure about whether your landlord should repair your heater, the FindLaw Answers Real Estate & Landlord-Tenant message board may be able to help: You can post a question and get a response, usually within 24 hours. For more immediate assistance, or if you think you may need to take your landlord to court, you can call a Boston real estate lawyer to discuss your issues.

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