We have had a hot summer this year, and — living in Arizona — I would like to say that the summer went smoothly and we got through the heat well. However, we ran into air conditioning problems over the 4th of July weekend, when the temperature was 106 degrees with high humidity. Thankfully our landlord was quick about fixing it and we only had to sleep through one unbearably uncomfortable night before the air conditioning repairs were made.
I have personally lived in Arizona for 28 years now, and this was not the first time I’ve had to suffer through the summer heat and no air conditioning. I was lucky to have the A/C repairs done quickly this time, but I have not been so fortunate in the past, so I wanted to pen this article that let’s people know what their renter’s rights are in regards to getting the air conditioning fixed. With that, we will dive into the question: “Can I Force My Landlord To Fix My Air Conditioning?”
Getting Your Landlord to Fix The Air Conditioning
Renter’s rights vary from state to state in the United States, so depending on where you live, the laws will change. In most states, air conditioning is considered an amenity, not a necessity. In those states, your landlord doesn’t have to even provide heating and air conditioning systems to a housing unit. In many of the hotter states in the Southwest, the laws have been amended to include air conditioning as a utility that is vital to the residents’ health and well-being. While this sounds like it is cut-and-dry, the law does not provide immediate help to a renter that has their air conditioning unit in need of repairs.
Know Your Lease Agreement
Even though Arizona’s state law says that air conditioning is vital, and does hold landlords as the party responsible for ensuring that the HVAC system is running properly, your lease agreement may include stipulations that either makes that requirement void, or is vague on the time-frame for repairs. In a moment we will speak about the general requirement for A/C repairs in Arizona, but remember that your lease itself may throw a wrench in the requirements.
Arizona Air Conditioning Repair Law
As it stands, the responsibility of the landlord to fix the air conditioning simply requires it to be fixed within 5 days of the initial maintenance request. This leaves a lot of wiggle room for the landlord, especially if your landlord is more on the side of slumlord. First, you need to be able to prove exactly when the initial request was made to the landlord. Even if your landlord is honest and backs you up on the date of your request, they still have 5 days to make the repairs. 5 days in Arizona under 118 Degree weather with no air conditioning can be uncomfortable and even dangerous, but that is the time-frame that landlords have.
Weekends, Holidays, and Overtime HVAC Repair Costs
This is where many landlords take advantage of the 5-day window. If it just so happens that your air conditioning breaks on a Friday of 4th of July weekend, you can bet that the landlord is not going to have HVAC repair services ordered on the weekends and especially not on the 4th of July — when overtime costs surge the repair price to 400%. You are likely not going to even see a repair man until Monday.
After The 5-day Maintenance Window
So, your 5 day window has passed and the landlord still hasn’t gotten the air conditioning fixed. So what can you do now? Well, you have several options:
Option 1: You can call an air conditioning repair service yourself, have them come and fix it, and pay them yourself. You can then ask your landlord to deduct the amount you spent on repairs from your monthly rent. The problem with this option, is that landlords can be shady… The landlord can simply say: “So, sue me,” and call your bluff, knowing that a lawsuit will cost more than the repair price.
Option 2: You can pay to stay at a hotel and ask that your landlord deduct the amount spent from your monthly rent. Again, you may run into the same problem as the previous option and the landlord may simply say: “So, sue me.” Additionally, the landlord can also push back and say that your $250 per night stay at a 5 star resort was a bit too lavish, and refuse to pay it… Again, delivering the line: “So, sue me.”
As you can see, neither of those are very good options for the tenant. This is why even though there is a law in-place protecting renters’ rights, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good when the system is stacked against the tenant.
In conclusion, even in a state like Arizona, where a landlord SHOULD be held to a quick repair time for air conditioning — and there are laws on the book to “hold landlords responsible” — unfortunately, there really aren’t any penalties that will force a landlord to get the air conditioning repaired in a timely manner. In Arizona, every summer, I hear these stories from apartment renters and those renting houses — and they are usually horror stories. Your only option is to make sure that your lease agreement stipulates very clearly your expectations for a quick A/C fix outside of the Arizona law, and hope that your landlord approves the clause and signs the lease.