A reader: I moved into to a really great new apartment a few months ago. I have been quite happy until this week. As the weather heated up, so did my apartment and my air conditioning is not working. I called my landlord, who told me it would be some time before he would be able to get it fixed. When I reminded him how hot it gets here and that he had to fix it, he informed me that he wasn’t even obligated to provide air conditioning for my apartment in the first place. I think he just doesn’t want to pay to have it repaired or replaced. What can I do to get may air conditioning fixed?
Action Line: I agree it isn’t fun to be hot, but this is the place where I tell you a nice cool shower or a dip in the pool may be the thing for you. I’m afraid you are not going to like the answer to your questions.
According to the Department of Consumer Affairs, California state law does not require residential landlords to provide working air conditioning (or other cooling equipment) in their rental units. However, the law does require all rental units to have adequate ventilation.
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If your air conditioner is broken and your landlord fails to make repairs in a reasonable time, you can contact Fresno City Code Enforcement to request an inspection to see if the unit is adequately ventilated.
Regardless of the season you move in, always check the appliances, outlets, air conditioning/heating units, light fixtures, water, etc. to make sure they are in working order BEFORE signing the lease.
Even though state law may not give you the automatic right to air conditioning, you may have a contractual right to a working air conditioning system. If your rental agreement lists air conditioning as one of the unit’s “amenities” (like carports, refrigerators, or swimming pools) – or if you had a working air conditioner in the unit when you moved in – the landlord’s failure to maintain the air conditioner in working order might be a breach of the rental agreement.
As with any repair dispute, you have several options: (1) do nothing and hope it is eventually fixed; (2) try to work out a settlement through direct negotiation or use the BBB’s free mediation services; (3) file a complaint with the BBB; (4) use the “repair and deduct” remedy or abandonment remedy; (5) file a lawsuit in small claims court requesting a partial rent refund or rent reduction until the air conditioner is fixed.
The BBB advises tenants never to use the “repair and deduct” remedy (fixing it yourself and deducting the cost from your rent payment) or the abandonment remedy (moving out without a 30-day notice) without first consulting with an attorney or legal services program. If you use either of these remedies improperly, you may be evicted or held liable to pay money damages to your landlord.
I would strongly encourage you to use our free mediation services to try and resolve the matter peacefully. Hopefully, you can get your AC fixed and stay in your great apartment.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.