Nearly all states and cities in the U.S. have rules establishing a baseline of “habitability” for residential rental units. Typically, landlords are responsible for ensuring that the rented unit is fit for human beings to live in – a standard that varies from place to place, but typically includes things like roofs that don’t leak, floors that bear weight, and the capacity for basic utilities, like heat, electric, and water.
But is air conditioning on the list of basic habitability requirements?
Do renters rights include air conditioning?
It depends on where you live. In some U.S. states, air conditioning is a luxury, not an essential. Many rental units aren’t equipped with air conditioning, and the laws make no mention of a cooling system in their discussions of basic habitability. In other states, however, landlords may be on the hook if the air goes out and isn’t promptly fixed.
In Phoenix, Arizona, for example, tenants must give their landlords written notice of a need for repairs to an air conditioning unit that is part of the rented premises. The landlord then has five days to fix the problem. If the air conditioning isn’t fixed, tenants then have the option to protect themselves from the heat and remedy the situation at the landlord’s cost.
Options for the tenant once the five-day waiting period up includes moving to temporary housing, purchasing a wall unit, or hiring a contractor to repair the unit – at the cost of $300 or less than half the monthly rent, whichever is greater. The law allows tenants to deduct these costs from the next month’s rent, according to the City of Phoenix. However, tenants may only take these steps if they have first provided notice in writing to their landlords and waited five days for repairs, and they must provide receipts to deduct expenses.
In a city where temperatures can soar into the triple digits during the day and refuse to budge below the mid-80s at night, air conditioning may be as crucial to habitability as heating is during a Northeast winter. Landlords in areas of the country where the temperature climbs during the summer are also wise to check on the rules in their area.
Regardless of where your rental properties are located:
- Make sure you know the rules for each property,
- Inform your tenants of the rules in writing. Your city or state may have brochures or informational handouts you can provide to tenants, or you may need to include the rules in the lease or other information you provide,
- Respond promptly to all requests for repairs. You may wish to keep contact information for trusted repair services on hand in case of emergency.
Note: This article is not intended as legal advice and should not be taken as such. If you have specific legal questions, please consult an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your area.