As summer is gearing up, more and more people give attention to their air conditioning units. Everybody knows that an annual checkup of the AC system is essential to ensure the device’s longevity. However, there’s no real consensus about who is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of AC units in rental homes.
AC repair specialists at Action AC shared their experience in this respect. Keep in mind that this article is a general information piece. It may not correspond to the exact situation in your local jurisdiction.
Do You Legally Need to Have an AC Unit?
The answer to this question largely depends on where you are. For instance, Arizona has air conditioning as one of the conditions to register a rental property. It is considered an essential service along with electricity and running water. With the mean annual temperatures in this state, it is no wonder that is the case.
But in California and several other states, having an AC system installed in a rental property is not a requirement. AC is considered an amenity, not an essential service that California landlords must provide by law. However, this amenity can vastly improve the likelihood of renting out your rental property quickly and earning more money.
What Happens If the AC Breaks Down?
If you’re providing an AC as a part of the lease contract, you are responsible for the upkeep and repairs of the system by default. Generally speaking, any appliance you provide as an amenity in the rental property (be it a washing machine, a microwave, or an AC) is your responsibility to maintain and ensure it works properly.
The justification is that the AC is a fixture you listed as a part of the lease. That means if the AC stops working, you have breached the contract, as your tenant is not getting what they paid for.
In some state jurisdictions like Georgia and California, this general understanding is in the law. The tenant may be within their rights to withhold rent payments or even sue the landlord for damages.
One Important Caveat
Keep in mind that the landlord is only responsible for repairs and maintenance of the AC (and everything else in the rental unit) if the damage to the device results from regular wear and tear or some unforeseen problem over which the tenant had no control. However, if the damage is from improper use of the device or the tenant’s negligence, the tenant will have to fix it.
How to Handle AC Repair?
If the damage does occur, typically, there is a simple procedure that you should follow. Once the tenant informs the landlord of the problem, there is a window of time for the landlord to repair the malfunction or replace the device. In certain parts of the country, where AC is much more vital, a landlord may have just days to resolve the issue. However, others stipulate a month or even give no time frame at all.
It is advisable to handle the issue as soon as possible because the tenant may decide to look for alternate ways to force the landlord to comply, including legal recourse in some jurisdictions.
Is the AC Always the Landlord’s Responsibility?
The repair of air conditioning units can run a gamut of being cheap and insignificant to requiring a serious investment, especially if it needs a replacement rather than repairs. Therefore, it is natural to ask if this burden should always fall to the same party.
The answer is that it depends on where you are. As mentioned before, there are parts of the country where it is illegal not to have AC, and parts of the country where tenant-landlord relationships are strictly and meticulously detailed.
However, in most parts of the country, the relationship between tenants and landlords is less precisely defined, which leaves room for custom changes to the lease contracts. If you put it in writing that you will not be responsible for the AC repairs, and the tenant agrees and signs the contract, you are in the clear. If, on the other hand, you omit the AC from the contract, tenants may interpret it as implied, and you may still have to settle the bill.
Having a fully functional rental unit is the goal of every landlord and tenant. By conducting regular maintenance of the appliances (especially the AC), you can ensure that the malfunctions are rare and uncommon.