By Michael Howard Saul, WSJ

Elected officials plan this week to redouble efforts to toughen penalties on landlords who violate city heat laws, breaking the economic incentive for building owners to withhold heat and hot water from tenants.

Officials confirmed Tuesday that the measure—targeting repeat and long-time offenders—has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, giving the chances of passage a boost.

More than 114,000 New Yorkers filed complaints with the city about a lack of heat or hot water during the fiscal year that ended June 30. Such complaints have fluctuated between about 111,000 and 128,000 in recent years.

Those numbers, based on data provided by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, are conservative because the agency records complaints by building. Heat and hot-water complaint calls to 311, which logs every call as an individual complaint, are much higher, totaling upwards of 175,000 a year.

The complaints generally come from the poorer areas of New York City. This past year, for example, residents who live in the area represented by Bronx Community Board 7, covering the Fordham, Bedford Park and Norwood neighborhoods, filed 5,405 complaints, the most of any swath of the city.

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