Chris Miller is ready for the winter, for him and his tenants. He’s been a homeowner since 1976 and he knows what’s important.

“First thing that’s most important is I get the snow blower ready and that’s always allowing my tenants access to and from the street which I am responsible for.”

In case it’s not obvious, Chris has a pretty thorough checklist. It includes double-checking everything to make sure his property is ready for potentially frigid temperatures.

“The heating system I have a maintenance company that comes and checks the windows and the heating and the water heater.”

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations fields tenant and landlord complaints--and educates renters. Under secretary John Chapman says it may seem like too much, but everything Chris is doing is required by law, and the law is pretty specific. Including the rule that landlords must keep thermostats at no less than 68 degrees.

Chapman says “Heat is key. The other is structural elements: landlord must maintain foundations, floors walls, doors, windows ceilings…staircases roofs things like that. A lot of the complaints we get to our hotline are around heat and repairs that need to be done.”

They get calls about everything from cracked windows to snow on roofs-- and yes, maintaining both during the winter falls on landlords-- once tenants notify landlords, they have to act. He says if they don’t move fast enough, you have options.

“You can deduct up to 4 months of your rent to the landlord. It can be a real useful tool for tenants to withhold rent to force necessary repairs.”

That is, after following a few steps first…

“You should be in communication with your landlord about the issue and if they’re not responding you need to make sure that you appeal to the landlord about the repairs that are necessary to be done, it’s important to have the board of health inspector I spoke about involved and make sure there are health code violations and they’ve notified your landlord.”

Chapman says withholding rent can also apply to things like buying plastic and tape to put over windows. He says its key for renters to know their rights.

We found one woman who did… she didn’t want to give her name.

“Just know your rights know that your landlord is the ones that’s going to take care of all of that for you and you need to call and demand it.”

Landlord Chris Miller says there’s a way to make sure things go smoothly for everyone: preparation.

“Prepare in advance. You can actually do it all year round, you know. Prepare the property for what’s going to happen”

There’s a good chance not all landlords are as conscientious as Chris, but at least as a renter you now know the law is on your side.