What To Do When the Heat Goes Out

With the cold winter months approaching, it is important to know what you need to do if the heat goes out in your rental unit. The heat going out can cause your rental unit to be cold, but can also lead to serious consequences for both you as a tenant and your rental unit.

Remember, never turn your heat off, regardless of whether you are home or not, and many leases have a temperature minimum requirement. We recommend reviewing your lease to see if there is a minimum temperature you have to keep your thermostat at. If there is not one listed, it is reasonable to keep your unit at 55 degrees Fahrenheit if leaving for an extended period of time.

Even if your heat is working, but the center of all rooms in your unit are not reaching at least 67 degrees Fahrenheit, you should follow the guidelines below to get the issue fixed. If this or your heat breaking ever happens to you, take these steps:

  1. Contact your landlord
    • The first and most important thing to do is to contact your landlord or rental company immediately. The problem can’t get fixed if your landlord isn’t aware of it. Your landlord should have the heat fixed within 24 hours according to the Department of Neighborhood Services.
    • You should both call and contact your landlord in writing. Writing can be via text message, email, or the tenant web portal provided by your rental company or landlord.
  2. Contact the Department of Neighborhood Services
    • If your landlord doesn’t respond to your communication immediately or informs you that it will take more than 24 hours to fix, contact DNS to report a problem with your landlord. You can call DNS at (414) 286-2489 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or report the problem on the DNS website under Neighborhood Property Concerns.
    • Do not wait to contact DNS! If your heat is out, your pipes can burst causing serious damage you could be held liable for depending on the action you do or do not take!
  3. Record the temperature
    • Create a record of the temperature. Check the temperature of your unit with a thermometer and take a picture of what the thermometer reads with the thermostat in the picture. By law, all rental units are required to be able to reach at least 67 degrees.
  4. File a landlord complaint with the Neighborhood Housing Office
  5. Make an appointment with the University Legal Clinic
    • If you believe that your landlord might have violated your lease agreement throughout the process of fixing or failing to fix your heat, you are encouraged to create an appointment with the University Legal Clinic. The Legal Clinic will review the lease of a UWM student for free and can offer legal help and advice to deal with a negligent landlord. If the University Legal Clinic is unable to assist you, look into these other legal resources.

Please note, over winter break both the University Legal Clinic and UWM’s Neighborhood Housing Office typically have limited hours or are closed.