heat-and-hot-water-poster.gifI live in a prewar apartment building where things break down periodically. The building superintendant doesn't respond to our maintenance calls reliably and will let things go for days, even for emergencies. Is there anything we can do to get things fixed more promptly?
Jane, Astora

We hate it when things break down. We sometimes try to fix things ourselves, which just makes it worse. (One time, we tried to fix a drippy faucet and wound up turning the whole apartment into a sauna, which was kind of cool, until the paint started peeling.)

One of the perks of living in New York, though, is that the renters' rights are pretty explicit. For instance, owners of apartment buildings are required by law to supply hot water year round and heat from October through May, in addition to maintaining other essential things and provide "habitable conditions."

If you have a neglectful super, the first thing to do would be to call the building owner and complain. They sometimes have emergency maintenance people on hand that they can dispatch, or they can lean on the building super - their employee - to do the work you've requested. If you still have problems, call 311.

For more information, check out the Department of Housing Preservation and Development's hotline page.