When it comes to the temperature of your unit, it’s important to ensure your tenants are comfortable.
However, in times of thermostat wars, sometimes costs can pile up. At the same time, landlords have specific requirements for the heating and cooling of their properties.
A landlord is required to provide a unit that is “habitable” for tenants. Habitable means that the rental is fit to live in and poses no serious hazards. In general, a habitable unit has the following:
- Leak-free roof, ceiling, windows, walls, and doors
- Weather-tight walls that are in good condition
- Safe stairs and railings that are in good condition
- Doors and windows with proper locks
- Window panes with no cracks or holes
- A clean, pest-free environment
- Hot water that is connected to the kitchen and bathroom sinks, tub and/or shower
- A flush toilet in working condition
- Safely and properly installed appliances (i.e. stove, dishwasher, laundry machines, etc.)
- Adequate garbage disposal facilities or garbage storage containers
- Wall outlets in safe, working condition
- Electrical systems in good repair and working order.
- Functional smoke detection devices
Keep in mind that repairs are a significant factor in the habitability of a unit. For this reason, it is imperative that regular maintenance be conducted and that repair requests are fulfilled promptly. Tenants are responsible for keeping the premises clean and maintaining the conditions of their living space. They are also responsible for repairing any damage they cause, or that is caused by anyone for whom they are responsible (family, guests or pets). Regular maintenance and repairs for wear-and-tear are left to the landlord.
Landlords’ Heating Requirements
Depending on which state you live in, there are different rules, codes, and regulations for heating in a rental. A landlord is required by law to provide tenants with adequate heating, especially in the colder months. They do not necessarily have to pay for it, but they must make it available. Proper heating falls under the warranty of habitability, mentioned in the previous section. Some housing codes outline the times of day or year that heating is required.
For instance, San Francisco requires heat year-round, meaning all habitable rooms must reach at least 68 degrees between 5AM-11AM and 3PM-10PM. New York City, on the other hand, only requires heat from October 31 to May 31. In New York, as of October 1, 2017, the inside temperature must be at least 62 degrees everywhere in your apartment regardless of the outside temperature. In California, a heating system is required for the unit to be habitable, but an A/C is not. However, if an A/C is provided, it must be maintained. Again, regulations vary from state to state, so make sure to check your local requirements and housing codes.
Landlords’ A/C Requirements
In most places, heating is usually a requirement for landlords, but air conditioning isn’t. If A/C is required, it’s likely that you’ll find a provision in your local rental laws instead of state laws, but be sure to check both just in case. As mentioned previously, if you provide an A/C system to your tenants, then it is your responsibility to maintain it. A broken A/C or one in poor condition will probably be a violation of contractual law. You are required to maintain the A/C for the entire duration of the lease agreement.
If the heating and/or provided A/C stop working or break, it is the landlords’ responsibility to fix it within a reasonable amount of time. However, tenants are also responsible for notifying the landlord of any necessary repairs as soon as possible. Failing to inform the landlord may make the damage worse. Tenants should send the landlord a notice in writing, detailing the date that the heat or A/C failed, as well as the current date.
If you fail to respond in time, the tenant may contact a local code enforcement officer and ask them to inspect the unit. The inspector will then send a notice to the landlord, telling them to fix the problem. If you continuously ignore the issue, a tenant may take legal action, withhold rent, or attempt to break the lease. Always make sure you act in accord with your lease agreement and that you handle all situations professionally.