questions & answers
Question: The air conditioning has been out in our rental since Thursday night. I submitted a maintenance request to the management company that night. The heating and cooling repair man came out on Friday afternoon and said he would need to order a fan. When I called him on Saturday afternoon, he said it hadn't come in yet and that we would need to wait until Monday. Yesterday, he came with the fan and determined that the entire compressor unit needs to be replaced. The management company was unable to reach the owner until 7:30 last night. We still have not gotten an update on how long this will take.
Answer: Under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (A.R.S. Title 33 Chapter 10), landlords are required (among other things) to “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition” and “maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances […] supplied or required to be supplied by him” (A.R.S. 33-1324). If, according to the rental agreement, the landlord has a duty to provide air-conditioning, but either deliberately or negligently fails to do so, then the landlord is in violation of the landlord’s legal obligations (A.R.S. 33-1364). Either way, a tenant who is not being provided with an essential service such as air-conditioning is advised to provide the landlord with formal written notice of the problem, by delivering to the landlord a letter describing the problem in detail and requesting that the landlord fix the problem as soon as possible. It is always recommended that tenants keep careful records of all their correspondence with their landlords. If the landlord does nothing to fix the problem, then the tenant will want to be able to prove that the tenant made formal requests of the landlord. If, after what the law describes only as a “reasonable” period of time, the landlord, either deliberately or negligently, does nothing to provide the air-conditioning or other services that the landlord has a duty to provide under the rental agreement, then the tenant has several options. If the tenant wishes to terminate the lease and vacate the dwelling, then the tenant may deliver to the landlord a second written notice identifying the problem and stating that if the problem is not fixed within 10 days after the landlord receives this notice then the rental agreement will terminate (A.R.S. 33-1361). (If the problem is so serious that it is affecting or threatening to affect the health and safety of the tenant(s), then a tenant who wishes to terminate the rental agreement may deliver to the landlord written notice stating that if the problem is not fixed within 5 days after the landlord receives this notice then the rental agreement will terminate (A.R.S. § 33-1361).) If the tenant wishes to continue to rent the dwelling, then the tenant may do any of the following: 1. Procure reasonable amounts of hot water, running water, heat and essential services during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance and deduct their actual reasonable cost from the rent; 2. File a claim in court to recover damages based on the decreased fair rental value of the dwelling; or 3. Procure “reasonable substitute housing” (an inexpensive motel, for example) until the landlord restores the essential service. What this means is that when the tenant pays his/her rent for the following month, the tenant may pay a “prorated” amount. (So, for example, if the monthly rent is $900 (or $30/day), and the tenant is forced to stay in a motel for 5 days, then the tenant may reduce the next month’s rent payment by $150.) If the cost of this substitute housing exceeds the amount of the tenant’s rent for the period, then the tenant also may recover up to 25% (but no more) of the additional expense from the landlord. There are links to organizations offering free or low-cost legal services on this website if you would like to discuss the specifics of your situation.
The air conditioning has been out in our rental since Thursday night. I submitted a maintenance request to the management company that night. The heating and cooling repair man came out on Friday afternoon and said he would need to order a fan. When I called him on Saturday afternoon, he said it hadn't come in yet and that we would need to wait until Monday. Yesterday, he came with the fan and determined that the entire compressor unit needs to be replaced. The management company was unable to reach the owner until 7:30 last night. We still have not gotten an update on how long this will take.
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