As any New Yorker knows, winter in the Northeast can bring about a whole host of tough conditions and extremely cold temperatures. This winter has been no exception. In these months, home heating is essential, not only for comfort, but also for health reasons.

In fact, the World Health Organization recommends keeping indoor temperatures between 64 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit for healthy people. The minimum temperature should be kept above 68 degrees Fahrenheit to protect the very young, the elderly, or people with health problems.

For many, maintaining these temperatures, means mounting heating costs. Fortunately there are a number of resources that New Yorkers can turn to assist them with these rising expenses.


    The Home Energy Assistance Program (“HEAP”) is a statewide program that can assist those in need with paying for the costs of heating their homes. Eligibility for the program is determined based on:

  • Income;
  • household size;
  • the primary heating source; and
  • the presence of a household member who is under age 6, over 60 years of age, or permanently disabled

HEAP’s website contains an income guideline chart as well as an online pre-screening tool in order to check eligibility for the program. Additionally HEAP provides emergency benefits to those who may not otherwise qualify for the regular benefit. Eligibility is based on income, available resources, and the type of emergency. In order to receive emergency assistance one must contact their local emergency number.


Individuals looking for a longer-term solution, or just an alternative option can look to the Weatherization Assistance Program (“WAP”).  WAP assists eligible families and individuals by reducing their heating and cooling costs and addressing health and safety issues in their homes through energy-efficiency measures.

Weatherization services reduce the amount of energy required to heat homes. Cost savings are significant, with an average annual savings of 20% or more. Households with incomes at or below 60% of state median income are eligible for assistance.

Services are available to both homeowners and renters, with priority given to senior citizens, families with children, and persons with disabilities. If a household contains a member who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Public Assistance, Food Stamps, or Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefits, the household is automatically eligible for WAP services. Individuals can apply by contacting the WAP provider that serves their area.


It is important to remember that all tenants have a legal right to heat between October 1st and May 31st. The law says that during these months if the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, apartments must be heated to at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. When the outdoor temperature falls below 40 degrees, apartments must be heated to at least 55 degrees.

For New York City residents if no responsive action is taken after complaining to landlords, tenants can make an official complaint by calling 311 and ask for an inspection.

Lastly, a tenant can take their landlord to court for failure to properly heat the apartment by filing an action in Housing Court. Throughout the process, the tenant should be sure to keep good records of their actions and a heat log showing the inside and outside temperatures at the specified times and dates.


Home Energy Assistance Program

Weatherization Assistance Program

Tenants’ Rights Resources

-Matthew Eric Finklestein, Columbia Law School

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