Monday, November 8, 2010

Home Sweet Freezer

This is about half of my apartment's main living space. I wrote before that I was looking for places to move to. But the place has really started to grow on me. The neighborhood isn't fantastic, but it's better than I'd originally given it credit for. And the subway is just a couple minutes away. It will feel much better once I have some actual furniture in there. It faces away from the street, so it's quiet, yet the windows are big enough to let in a lot of natural light in the main room and bedroom. And besides, it is a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan for $1075, a price you couldn't get a studio for in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That's cheap.

Now over the last week I've started to understand why it's so cheap.

In my month-to-month lease was strange rider. One of the clauses was that the tenant would be responsible for the costs of heating the place. When I called and asked about it, the landlord told me it was because each tenant had control over the heating system in their apartment, and therefore paid depending on how much they used. They said it would come out of the electrical bill.

I was dumb. I was also desperate, because I had only ten days to either sign back on with this place or find a new one, and finding a new one would be next to impossible because of my income. In New York City, almost all landlords expect documentation of annual income equal to or exceeding 30 times the rent to prove you can afford the place. Since my income is all as an independent contractor instead of a wage earning employee, that's almost impossible. Plus it was still hot enough in the apartment that I was spending most of my time in it wandering around shirtless. So I signed the lease and rider.

What should have occurred to me is that, if I was responsible for paying for heat, and that that heat came in through the electrical bill, then the three baseboard space heaters in my apartment just might be the only sources of heat in the place. As in the ones that we're pretty sure are fire hazards if you put anything near them.

It is now about forty degrees outside. When I wake up in the morning, my nose sometimes feels like it's an ice cube about to fall off my face. And it's only going to get colder. By at least another 20 degrees in January and February.

Since this unit was one my friend lived in before, I asked her how she managed. She said it was just by the baseboard heaters, and that it was still pretty cold. Not only that, but when she used the heaters only when she was at home, her electric bill in February went all the way up to $150.

NY housing law mandates central heating systems in all apartments unless a permit is granted to allow an electric heating system. That appears to be what I have. But I looked on the Department of Buildings website and found that my building doesn't seem to have any permits. It also has a dozen or so violations that have all been dismissed by inspectors, no details available online except for one in 1995: it has the note"NO BOILER, ELECTRIC HEAT ONLY."

I haven't called the landlords to ask about it yet because I'm not sure what to tell them or ask them. They've been really nice so far... Anyway I'm not sure there's much they or I can do-- installing a central heating system would be quite an undertaking, I assume. But I'm going to be investigating. I don't feel like freezing this winter.


  1. The best way to get on your slumlord's good side is to not realize that you're getting a great deal to live in Manhattan and complain about things that can be solved by wearing layers. :)

  2. Plug in radiant heaters (they look like old fashioned radiators) rather than fan and baseboard types. You'll have to pay for them and the electric bill, but they are safer. Plug them into separate surge supressor. And yes wear layers.

  3. Agree about the radiant heaters. Probably available at your Target or Costco. They actually put out quite a bit of heat. When our central heat wasn't working they were big help. It may overload your electrical supply to add a heater so you should know if you have circuit breakers or fuses and where. The radiant heaters keep heat more even. Good luck. lv, anonymom

  4. Hey,

    I grew up in a room with no good heating source. A little tow around space heater is a good option. I assume you have a small bedroom, so it would probably keep it livable, and that way you only heat where you need it. I also spent a winter in a cold apartment and slept in a winter hat every night, its liking camping, its fun...