My Air Conditioning (“A/C”) stopped cooling and it is becoming very hot in my unit. Isn’t the landlord required to fix this?
Answer: If you live in a residential unit that has a cooling fixture installed, your landlord is required to repair and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition as well as comply with all city and state building codes that materially affect the health and safety of the premises as described in ARS 9-1303. He/She is also required to maintain in good and safe working order all electrical, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems pursuant to ARS 33-1324(A).
What do I have to do to exercise my rights under the law?
Answer: If a landlord fails to supply a reasonable amount of heat, air-conditioning, or cooling where such units are installed and offered, the tenant can exercise the rights provided by Arizona law. The tenant is required to give the landlord written notice specifying what is wrong. If the landlord doesn’t fix the issue timely, the tenant may then choose any of the statutory remedies. See ARS 33-1364(A) and (H). That notice can be a letter that is mailed certified or registered mail but it can also be an email or a text message as long as the tenant has proof it was sent and that the landlord received it. See ARS 33-1313.
How long does my landlord have to fix the cooling fixture before I have the right to legally break my lease, seek alternative cooling, or alternative housing?
Answer: A landlord normally has ten days to repair problems in the premises but that time is shortened to five days if the situation involves a health or safety issue. The question therefore depends on the temperature outside. If it is 85 degrees outside, the landlord will have up to ten days to repair the problem. However, if it is 100 degrees outside, the landlord will have five days to repair the problem. Note that this timeframe may be shorter if the temperature in the unit is higher than allowed by that individual city code.
Do I have the legal right to hire someone to fix the A/C fixture after I provide the landlord a written notice and they fail to fix it within the proper timeframe? If not, what are my options?
Answer: ARS 33-1364(H) specifies that a tenant does not have the right to repair the cooling fixture. However, Section (A) provides that the tenant may do one of the following: 1) Procure reasonable amounts of cooling services and deduct that amount from their rent, 2) Deduct the diminished value of the premises, 3) Find reasonable substitute housing and deduct the daily rent for the days the home is not habitable. If the cost of that housing is more than the daily rent, the tenant may also deduct an additional 25% of that daily rent from their rent after providing the landlord proof of payment for that housing, or 4) Terminate the lease and move without penalty.
Here are some examples: A tenant may buy a portable A/C fixture for $300 and deduct that from their rent after providing a receipt to the landlord. If the tenants choose to stay at a hotel and their monthly rent is $1800, they can deduct up to $75.00 (daily rent of $60 plus an additional $15.00, which is 25% of the daily rent) of the daily hotel bill after providing the landlord with a copy of that bill. The statute does not allow the tenant to take off the entire amount of the hotel bill unless the landlord’s failure to act is willful.
My landlord told me he won’t fix the A/C because I haven’t paid the rent. Can he do that?
Answer: No. Each party has a different set of rights and obligations under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. The tenant cannot withhold their rent and should choose a remedy provided by law to avoid being evicted for non-payment of rent. Additionally, the landlord cannot willfully decide to not fix the A/C because the tenant allegedly is in breach of their lease. In fact, pursuant to ARS 33-1364(F), if the decision by the landlord to not fix the A/C is deliberate (as opposed to waiting for a vendor or part to be available), the tenant may recover the actual and reasonable cost of alternative housing up to but not more than one month’s rent or terminate the lease and recover an amount of two month’s rent or their actual damages.
Is there a set temperature that will be deemed to be too hot in my unit?
Answer: Each city sets its own codes regarding the maximum level the interior of the unit can be before it is deemed a code violation. Sometimes those codes are based upon the type of unit installed (A/C vs swamp cooler) as well as the temperature outside (usually 20 degrees greater than outside). For example: The landlord provides a swamp cooler in a Phoenix apartment and the temperature is 115 degrees outside. In the City of Phoenix, a swamp cooler must cool to 86 degrees or at least 20 degrees less than outside, so this landlord must ensure that the unit is cooling to at least 95 degrees inside. If there is an A/C unit installed, the landlord must ensure that the premises cool to 82 degrees, or at least 20 degrees less than the outside. Example: if it is 105 degrees outside, the unit must cool to at least 85 degrees.
My landlord sent me a five-day health and safety breach notice because my dog damaged the A/C fixture that was in the backyard on the back patio. He also refused to fix the A/C. Can he do that?
Answer: If the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent actions of the tenant, a member of their family or their guest, the rights listed above do not exist and the tenant may be charged for those damages pursuant to ARS 33-1364(H).