Current Projects Triage and Diagnosis

Heat Seek: documenting violations with sensors

Can we use technology to seek out problems that have legal dimensions, that people aren’t aware of?

Heat Seek is a technology-based legal tool to help people see if heating code violations have occurred.

It uses sensor technology to watch whether and how homes are being heated in NYC, and identifying when violations happen. It can then track patterns of abuse and work with the landlords and the court system to get to a resolution.

Here is their information about their initial pilot.

Heat Seek helps tenants resolve their home heating issues by providing the objective, reliable temperature data they need to hold their landlords accountable. We do this by installing low cost, web connected temperature sensors in buildings across New York City. During the winter of 2016, Heat Seek ran a pilot program in 50 buildings throughout four boroughs. For this pilot program, we sought out buildings with the following criteria: (1) an organized tenant association, (2) at a high risk for continued landlord abuse, as identified by our partners, and (3) stated willingness to bring a group case to housing court.

By the numbers:

56 buildings received sensors
73 individual apartments served
16 community partners, including attorneys, community organizations, and tenant groups, as well as the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) the city agency responsible for enforcing the housing code.


While we are still analyzing the results of the winter 2015-2016 Pilot, a few initial trends have emerged:

Heat Seek data help clients achieve more favorable legal outcomes.
In three separate cases that spanned different attorneys and at least eight buildings, landlords made more concessions to their tenants and our clients.

“[Heatseek] data are much more digestible than manual heat logs, especially for judges.” Attorney, Legal Services NYC

“With Heat Seek, I was able to submit proof of the lack of heat in my client’s apartment. Upon seeing the evidence, the landlord and his attorney conceded the issue and the landlord agreed to waive all rent claims and provide a rent-stabilized lease.” Edmund Witter, Attorney at Legal Aid Society

Landlords restore or increase heat provision when they know Heat Seek sensors have been deployed in their buildings.
In four buildings, tenants shared Heat Seek data directly with their landlords, who shortly thereafter turned up the heat. These increases in heat are reflected in our data.