If you find yourself in San Antonio, TX, in August, you'll immediately understand the definition of a 'hot summer day.' The average temperature in the city home to The Alamo averages a steamy 96 degrees that month. With heat like that, an air-conditioned apartment sure would feel great to come home to. But does your landlord have to provide AC to you?
Despite the summer heat, it might surprise you that Texas does not mandate landlords to provide air-conditioning in rented apartments, townhouses or homes. Instead, Texas state laws defer to rental laws in effect. That might be surprising, especially since an average of 702 heat-related deaths (with 415 directly related to heat exhaustion) occurred in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Texas is not the only state that does not require landlords to equip rented units with AC. In fact, every state follows its own set of regulations pertaining to the duties of landlords and the rights of tenants.
In fact, landlord-tenant laws differ in each of the 50 states. Beyond that, cities and other governing bodies promulgate their own statutes on the matter. That means that even if a state's laws do not require a landlord to provide working air-conditioning in their rental units, a city or other entity may enact legislation mandating they do in that particular municipality.
One way to decipher what is legal and what is not in your state is to contact the Consumer Protection Division where the residence is. While that site does not answer questions directly, it provides links so users can connect with a governmental agency in their state for further information.
In addition to state laws governing landlord-tenant relationships, local jurisdictions, such as cities or villages, may establish their own building codes. Those rules set standards for matters like electrical wiring, smoke alarms, plumbing and ventilation. For example, a local law governing security might require the landlord to install additional locks or other safety precautions on an entry door or windows.
Not surprisingly, AC is among the top considerations for would-be renters. There are steps a would-be tenant can take so the unit they wish to rent has working air-conditioning prior to signing on the dotted line.
One is to take a personal tour of the property in question prior to committing to the rental contract. If there are no window units or no central air, ask about it. Don't just assume it will be there on moving day if it's not there during your tour.
Also, while you're touring the apartment, check the workability of the AC by turning it on. Be wary if the landlord balks at this suggestion.
It's also imperative to read your rental agreement carefully before signing it. Is air-conditioning mentioned? Who pays for the apartment's electricity? If it's the tenant and the window AC unit is old, it may not run efficiently or be in good working order. Does the lease mention such scenarios and explain who's responsible for the maintenance and repair of the AC?
And, if your air-conditioning breaks, review your lease to determine the steps you're supposed to take. You may have to contact your landlord directly or your community's maintenance department. There could be provisions for after-hours emergency maintenance, too.
In most jurisdictions in the United States, landlords must provide two services to tenants to ensure the rented unit fulfills the implied warranty of habitability. They are:
Even if a rental agreement specifically requires a landlord to make repairs on the property, an implied warranty of habitability means the unit is just that: habitable.
An important component of an implied warranty of habitability is the tenant's duty to pay rent. That covenant makes it easier for tenants to enforce the landlord's responsibility for the maintenance of the unit.
Another clause to look for in a rental agreement is the prohibition of retaliation by a landlord against tenants who file housing code violations. Consult state and local laws for further details about what constitutes a violation of the jurisdiction's implied warranty of habitability, if it even has one.
Generally speaking, if a rental unit has air conditioning units, the landlord must repair them. That's true even if state laws did not require a rental to have air-conditioned, but the landlord provided it, anyway.
That being said, the landlord should include who is responsible for repairing a malfunctioning AC in a lease. For example, even if AC is in a unit, a rental agreement may state that the tenant is liable for repairs to a malfunctioning air-conditioner. It might also indicate that while the landlord is responsible to complete the repairs. The costs associated with doing so are possibly tacked on to the rent. A lease could also relieve a landlord from responsibility for any type of repair if that's how it's written.
Most state and local laws require repairs happen within a reasonable period of time. Just as each state maintains its own landlord-tenant laws, each one also defines that term differently.
For example, Texas law provides specific instructions for handling repair situations for rental units.
In Ohio, landlords are required to provide air conditioning units in rentals. Tenants must provide written notice to their landlord about the situation. And, according to Ohio law, the notice must come by U.S. mail.
In the Buckeye State, a 'reasonable time' is no more than 30 days. However, in case of an emergency, such as a malfunctioning furnace, the time for repair goes down to five days. Moreover, a tenant must permit the landlord access to the property to make the necessary repairs. Conversely, the landlord must provide the tenant with reasonable notice when the repairs will happen, generally defined as 24 hours. Emergency situations call for more immediate action.
Although air conditioning is among the most highly coveted amenities of rental living, there's no uniform law across the United States requiring all landlords to provide it in their rental units. That means it's imperative to personally tour a proposed property to ensure working AC is available if you want it. It's also wise to review the lease agreement to determine the responsible party for the costs associated with repairs.