Depending on where you live, air conditioning can be more of a necessity than anything else.
Especially in very humid environments, the temperature can get so high that it becomes dangerous.
So, since air conditioning is so important, does that mean that property owners are responsible for providing it?
In this guide, we will be going over the tenant's rights to air conditioning and the landlord-tenant law regarding it so that you can appropriately maintain your units.
To begin, let's go over what rights tenants have when it comes to heat and air conditioning.
What Are a Tenant's Rights For Air Conditioning?
If the air conditioning breaks in your home, you most likely want it to get fixed as soon as possible. However, it is important to be knowledgeable about what you can demand from the landlord and what you cannot.
In most states, landlords are actually not required to provide air conditioning. This means that even if there is no air conditioning in the property, the tenant cannot withhold rent because it is considered just an amenity.
The reason for this is that air conditioning is not considered a factor when defining the implied warranty of habitable living conditions. Some of the things that are considered necessary include:
- Working gas, heating, electric, and plumbing systems
- Non-leaking structure
- No health hazards
- Garbage disposal
...and much more. These are all essentially meant to protect the physical health and safety of the tenant\. Note that a working air conditioning system is not included in this list.
But, there are many states where the landlord is responsible for providing air conditioning. Some of these states include Arizona, Florida, Kansas, and Nevada. In these states, the landlord is actually responsible for providing and maintaining the air conditioner in rental units. This is due to the extreme heat that the tenants in the rental unit can suffer through in these states.
Now that we know about some of the basic rights that tenants have regarding A/C, we may continue. Below, we have provided some general guidelines when it comes to A/C on the rental property or submitting maintenance requests from the property manager.
Know Your State Law
As you are creating the rental agreement for a tenant, it is important that both the tenant and the landlord are knowledgeable of state law and local ordinances. Since some states make it the landlord's responsibility to provide a functioning air conditioner, the tenant may want that included in the agreement.
However, if the state does not require the landlord to provide an air conditioner, the tenant may want to pay more attention. In these cases, the landlord can include in the lease agreement that air conditioning will not be provided in the rental properties. This means that, even if the existing air conditioning fails, it is not the landlord's responsibility.
In extreme cases, where the heat "materially affects the physical health and safety of an ordinary tenant", action can be taken. In these cases, the tenant can demand the A/C be fixed and can start withholding rent as the landlord is going against landlord-tenant law.
The consumer protection departments of many states regularly modify landlord-tenant laws. For this reason, it is important to keep up with them at all times. Not sure where to find the specific laws for your state? Visit DoorLoop's Laws Page to learn about every state's different landlord-tenant laws.
In some cases, your tenant will have a medical condition that will require them to have some sort of operational air conditioning. This is treated the same as a support animal, as a reasonable accommodation.
This could apply especially in areas of colder climates, where people can easily get sick. Sometimes, the landlord will be responsible for providing the tenant with heating systems, like a portable A/C unit or window unit. Essentially, any system that can provide heat.
If the landlord has property management software or company, the tenant may have to submit a work order. Below, we will discuss some more about how to handle air conditioning maintenance and repairs.
How to Handle Air Conditioning Maintenance and Repairs
When the air conditioning in a rental unit breaks down, it is usually the landlord's responsibility to fix it. The landlord is also responsible for replacing, if needed, the entire system.
If the system broke down due to something that the tenant does not control (natural forces), the landlord is also responsible for covering all costs. However, if the air conditioner breaks down because of neglect by the tenant, the tenant may be liable.
When the air conditioning breaks down due to tenant negligence, the landlord can choose to either have the tenant find a maintenance professional and cover the costs or simply deduct the costs from their security deposit.
On the other hand, when the air conditioner breaks due to anything else, the landlord has a specific time limit in which they must repair it. For example, in Arizona, the landlord has 2-5 business days from when they receive notice to fix or replace the unit.
To save yourself from any trouble regarding the A/C, there are some easy steps to follow. For example, the unit should be inspected regularly as part of routine inspections. This way, any problems can be identified and fixed before they become worse. Also, depending on the state, the landlord can opt out of A/C repairs in the written lease agreement.
Documentation is Key
When dealing with a broken A/C, or anything regarding a tenant, it is always best to document everything. This is in case the dispute goes all the way to court, which landlords typically want to avoid.
In the case of a court hearing, it is always best to have every communication with the tenant documented. For example, it is essential that you document when the first written notice of the A/C problem was sent. This shows the court how much time the landlord has taken to fix the A/C after the written notice.
It is also a good idea to become very familiar with your lease agreement. Since the lease is essentially the governing document between tenant and landlord, it can either make or break your case. For example, if it is clearly written in the lease that the landlord will not be responsible for repairing the A/C, it can be more difficult for the tenant to make a claim.