One of the benefits of renting instead of buying is that the general upkeep and maintenance is the responsibility of the landlord. Exactly what that entails may vary from one jurisdiction to the next. That’s certainly true when it comes to providing heating and cooling for the rental unit. Here are a few things you should know about what the landlord is required to provide, what may be optional, and what can happen if the heating or cooling systems in your rental unit need repairs.
Heat Yes But Air Conditioning Depends
You would find it hard to locate a jurisdiction where landlords are not required to provide some sort of heating system. The type of system will vary from simple natural gas space heaters to furnaces to HVAC units. As long as the heating equipment is in compliance with local codes and provides what the jurisdiction considers a reasonable or adequate heat source, the landlord is providing what is considered to be a habitable dwelling.
Keep in mind that the landlord’s responsibility is to ensure the heating equipment is present. You would still be responsible in most cases for establishing utility accounts with a local providers of electricity or natural gas.
There are some areas of the nation where providing some type of air conditioning is necessary to comply with what the local jurisdiction considers adequate climate control. That air conditioning may be in the form of window units, ductless air conditioning units, or a HVAC unit. This particular provision is most likely to be in effect when average temperatures and humidity levels within the area reach certain levels during warmer seasons.
Examples of Requirements in Different Jurisdictions
Providing a rental unit that is considered habitable is the basis for determining what is considered safe and reasonable accommodations for tenants. The goal is to ensure the space can be maintained with a reasonable degree of comfort in any weather condition. That’s one of the reasons why a heating source is more likely to be required than a means of cooling the space.
Consider a rental unit in California. There are definitely times when the temperature will drop to a level that some type of heating is necessary. As the California Department of Consumer Affairs confirms, a functioning heating system is considered essential to complying with local regulations that apply to rental units.
Similar regulations apply in the Deep South, including the state of Georgia. Current laws require landlords to provide functioning and adequate heating systems in all rental units. Failure to do so carries stiff fines and may lead to other legal issues. In spite of the higher heat and humidity in this part of the country, there are no guarantees that a local jurisdiction will require landlords to provide air conditioning.
By contrast, Arizona does have regulations in place that require landlords to provide adequate access to heating and air conditioner units for cooling options. These are considered basic accommodations along with providing running water.
The point is that tenants should never assume that landlords will automatically provide sources for cooling unless they are required to do so by current laws. The best approach is to become familiar with the regulations that apply to rental units in the local jurisdiction. These can often be found on national databases as well as many municipal sites. There are also associations designed for landlords that will include this type of data.
What Happens if the Heating or Cooling Sources Fail?
Many landlords will provide some type of air conditioning even if it’s not required by law. What will happen if the air conditioner breaks down or a problem develops with the heating system? In many jurisdictions, the answer has to do with what caused the heating or cooling system to fail.
Negligence on the part of the tenant could mean that the landlord will not be responsible for covering the cost of the repairs. This can include damage done to a unit by the tenant’s pet or by guests who are on the property with the permission of the tenant. In the event that the tenant does anything to the unit that leads to a breakdown, the landlord is not usually required to pay for the repairs or the replacement of the equipment.
When the Landlord is Responsible for the Air Conditioner Repair or AC Replacement
Assuming the tenant did nothing to cause the breakdown, many jurisdictions of the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act require that the landlord repair or replace the equipment in what local laws define as a reasonable time frame. For example, the standard in many Arizona communities is two business days after the landlord is made aware of the malfunction.
This means the tenant is responsible for notifying the landlord that a problem exists. A phone call is often enough to alert the owner or the property manager that the heating or cooling system needs attention. Keep in mind that who the tenant calls often depends on the rental terms and conditions. For example, it may be necessary to notify a maintenance department if the rental unit in question is an apartment located in a complex.
Notification by post is also an option. Include details like the date that the problem was discovered, the address of the rental unit, and ways to contact the tenant to set up a time to inspect and hopefully begin repairs. Today, notifications by email are often considered valid forms of reaching out to the landlord or property manager.
What If the Landlord Does Not React?
There are several ways to respond if the landlord does not answer the notification or does not begin repairs within the time frame considered adequate by the local jurisdiction. The tenant can engage a repair service, pay for the repair, and withhold the funds spend on the repair from the rent.
In some jurisdictions, finding temporary lodgings like a motel may be necessary. In this case, funds can also be deducted from the rent. Keep in mind that the tenant cannot deduct the entire cost of the motel stay. Only a portion that’s similar to the per day cost of the rental is acceptable.
This means that if the monthly rent on the unit is $1000.00, the tenant would be able to deduct a total of $33.34 for each day spent in the motel. Many jurisdictions require that the tenant notify the landlord in advance that there is a problem and also notify the responsible party of the date when the motel room was booked. Landlords are not considered responsible if the tenant decides to remain in the motel for another day or two after the heating or cooling equipment is repaired.
Keep in mind that many jurisdictions also require that the tenant be up to date on the rent. Being in arrears may limit the amount of protection that the tenant can claim in the local jurisdiction.
As a tenant, always know what laws and regulations apply to the rental arrangement. That includes options for recourse in the event the heating or cooling systems provided fail. Doing so will make it easier to resolve the matter quickly and avoid the need to take further legal action.