Q&A: Water Temperature Problem

Q&A: Water Temperature Problem

Q. I live in a prewar co-op building. It takes 5-10 minutes for the cold water in my kitchen and bathroom to get truly cold. It starts out warm or lukewarm (75-82 degrees Fahrenheit) when I first turn it on, and it’s very frustrating. The super looked at it and says it’s a problem in my apartment line somewhere. Others on my line have this issue, and other residents on different lines also have this same complaint and more, such as low water pressure, or no hot water for showers. The super thinks that locating the problem will cost thousands of dollars, and some board members don’t think there’s a problem. There’s definitely a problem in my apartment line located either within the walls somewhere or the basement where the water tanks are. Are the building staff required to fix it regardless of cost or difficulty? Can I sue for breach of contract since they’re refusing to address a water problem and water is considered a “common element”? Please let me know what I can do because it’s a very frustrating, unfair situation.

                       —Where’s My Cold Water?                             

A. “Pursuant to the Business Judgement Rule,” says Stuart M. Saft, a partner at the New York law firm of Holland & Knight in Manhattan, “the board of directors of an apartment corporation has complete discretion in the operation of the building and, unless there is a showing of bad faith, discrimination, or self-dealing, the court will not intervene in the operation of the building. The corporation’s obligations are described in the Proprietary Lease that you signed when you acquired your interest in the apartment. However, the board must also comply with New York City’s Multiple Dwelling Law, which mandates in 27-2031 ‘Supply of hot water; when required. Except as otherwise provided in this article, every bath, shower, washbasin and sink in any dwelling unit in a multiple dwelling or tenant-occupied one-family or two-family dwelling shall be supplied at all times between the hours of six a.m. and midnight with hot water at a constant minimum temperature of one hundred twenty degrees Fahrenheit from a central source of supply.’ 

“It may cost thousands of dollars to solve the problem, but the corporation’s failure to do so could result in the corporation being fined if a Department of Buildings inspector issues a violation for the infraction. Of course, the cost of the repair will fall on all the shareholders in increased maintenance or an assessment.”

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  • We had the same problem in a previous pre-war co-op. I understand the writer's frustration. But sometimes that's life. It's not a breach of contract or DOB violation. There is no legal or contractual requirement to provide cold water, only hot water, which the building was. There was always hot water, and the cold water ran warm. Not wilt-your-lettuce warm, but certainly not cold and refreshing. The co-op investigated and it seemed that to fix it would require ripping out and replacing all the riser plumbing in a 100+ year old building, while also destroying everyone's bathrooms, which per the lease would be fixed at the shareholder's expense. That is not something that the shareholders wanted, even the ones that did not like warm water. The cost-benefit was not there. People need to remember that being in a co-op means that all the costs are shared. If you want to change something, it's not "them" that pays for it, it's "you." In this case, I don't think anyone was willing to pay a $20,000 assessment and a full bathroom reno each, just to get colder cold water.
  • We had that issue in our 7 story building.Lines close to the boiler didn't have an issue, mine was on the last line and I had to wait 10 minutes to get middling hot water. After getting estimates from 2 plumbers that would have cost 3-5k per unit, the 3r plumber found the issue: the a return pump above the boiler that recirculates the hot water through all the lines. It was original, = 75+ years old and worn out. Cost under $700 to replace and now all units get almost instantaneous hot water (and we found we had to lower our water temperature, because it had been raised in an attempt to compensate for the failing return pump) and was scalding when delivered without a delay.
  • The 2nd part to that 'hot water' problem, is that in some buildings it takes between 5-10 minutes for the water to get to the 'hot' stage; resulting in the waste of water and increase water charges. BUT not fixing the problem AND then the Board claiming increase in usage usage/rate as one means so as to justify an assessment or increase IS NOT management in the interest of shareholders.
  • I have a different problem. In my shower in order to get hot water the faucet must be turned all the way up and then it comes out scaldingly hot you have to fiddle with it cm by cm to get a more normal temperature.
  • I have this problem and I've decided that instead of going through the hassle and trauma of moving out of an otherwise nice apartment, I just let the water faucet run for 5-10 minutes if it hasn't been run for a while to reach an acceptable temperature. I don't pay a water bill, it's included in everyone's maintenance and so far I haven't seen any increases. If you don't want to go through the trouble and expenses of moving, I recommend doing this if nobody else in the co-op or the co-op board care to actually address the problem no matter what the cost. It's become part of my daily routine.