Keeping residents warm in the winter is a law. Landlords are responsible for maintaining heat in rental properties and for making sure their residents stay warm.
But, what about the summer months? Are they also responsible for keeping tenants cool?
The answer to the question lies in where you live. Different states have different laws governing air conditioning. Some states require air conditioning, while others only require the property of be “habitable”. Check the laws of your state to ensure you are in compliance.
Habitable is not a term with a black and white definition. Beyond the basics of providing a door with a lock on the unit, and a functional bathroom and kitchen, there is not really a definition for landlords to go by.
Air conditioning is considered an amenity in many places. However, if a tenant has a medical condition requiring cooler temperatures, the law may side in their favor. If your units do not already have air conditioning, consider providing an AC unit to avoid further action.
If there is an AC unit in your property when the tenant moves in, be sure to detail in writing in the contract if the unit is considered a major appliance requiring immediate repair. If the A/C breaks, landlords may not be responsible for fixing it right away, as with a refrigerator or a stove, but it is important to be upfront with tenants so they know what to expect.
Landlord’s may also choose to install a tamper-proof thermostat, which keeps tenants cool in the summer but prevents them from setting the A/C too high or too low costing you money in the long run. Thermostat’s from Chicago Controls are unique and cannot be tampered with no matter how hard tenants try.
Having clear rental agreements can save a headache down the road. Make sure your policy on AC is clearly defined for new tenants, and give them the opportunity to ask questions. As the landlord, it is a critical decision whether to include AC in your properties. It can be a great selling point, but also comes with drawbacks. Choose what works for you.