In hot and humid climates, air conditioning becomes more than just a luxury; it becomes a necessity. Rental properties are no exception, and whether or not the property has an AC installed can be a deciding factor for potential tenants.

Are landlords legally obligated to install an AC?

There is no federal law that mandates landlords to provide air conditioning (AC) in rental properties. In general, landlords are typically obligated to provide habitable and safe living conditions for their tenants, and if the rental property is located in an area that typically gets very hot, habitable and safe living conditions would usually have to include some kind of cooling facility.

The requirement to install AC can also vary depending on the state, city, or local regulations though. Some jurisdictions may have specific rules regarding the provision of cooling systems in rental properties, particularly in regions with extreme temperatures. For example, the city of Los Angeles are currently attempting to move forward with a plan to have mandatory air conditioning in all rental units in the city.

To determine the specific requirements in a particular area, it’s wise to research the local housing laws, building codes, and regulations. It’s also preferred that everything related to whether or not the rental property will have an AC unit and deadlines for handling potential issues will be formally stated in a lease agreement to manage expectations.

Why Installing an A/C is potentially well worth it

The price of a regular A/C window unit is commonly somewhere between $150 to $550, and will usually last you around 8 - 10 years according to Consumer Reports. While the one-time fee may be relatively high for some landlords, having an A/C unit could potentially justify a rent increase and in time, the cost could cover itself. For example, if you install two A/C units in a 1-bedroom apartment for a total of $600, you would only need to increase the monthly rental fee by $20 to pay off the cost in 2.5 years.

In addition to the potential boost an A/C unit could have on tenant satisfaction, there are other reasons why it may be beneficial to install one:

  1. Competitive Advantage: In rental markets with multiple options, having an AC unit can give your property a competitive edge. Tenants often prioritize properties with air conditioning, especially in regions with hot climates. By offering this amenity, you may be able to attract a larger pool of tenants and potentially charge higher rents.
  2. Higher Rental Value: Installing an AC unit can increase the overall value of your rental property. Since air conditioning is considered a desirable feature, you can justify higher rental rates compared to properties without AC. This can lead to a higher average cash flow.
  3. Improved Tenant Retention: Happy tenants are more likely to renew their leases and stay longer. By providing the convenience and comfort of air conditioning, you create a positive living experience that encourages tenants to extend their tenancy. This reduces vacancy periods and turnover costs associated with finding new tenants.
  4. Maintenance Benefits: While an AC unit requires regular maintenance, it can also contribute to preserving the property. Proper cooling helps prevent excess humidity, which can lead to mold growth and damage to the structure and furnishings. By controlling indoor temperature and humidity, an AC unit can minimize potential maintenance issues and associated costs.
  5. Energy Efficiency: Modern AC units are usually designed to be energy efficient, providing cooling while keeping electricity costs under control. By installing energy-efficient models, you can promote sustainability and reduce environmental impact, which is an attractive feature for many tenants concerned about their carbon footprint and prefer eco-friendly properties.

When installing an A/C unit, remember to comply with local regulations and consult with professionals to ensure that the installation and maintenance of the AC unit meet safety standards and legal requirements in your area.

Whose responsibility is to fix a broken AC?

The responsibility for repairing the AC unit in a rental property depends on the terms outlined in the lease agreement and local landlord-tenant laws. While it’s common that the landlord has the overall responsibility, there are a few scenarios that can determine who is responsible for AC repairs:

Landlord's Responsibility: In many jurisdictions, landlords are typically responsible for providing and maintaining essential utilities and amenities, including heating and cooling systems. If the AC unit was provided as part of the rental property and its breakdown is due to normal wear and tear or mechanical issues, it is typically the landlord's responsibility to repair or replace the unit.

Tenant's Responsibility: If the AC unit malfunction or damage is caused by the tenant's negligence, misuse, or failure to adhere to the terms outlined in the lease agreement (e.g., improper maintenance, damage due to unauthorized repairs or modifications), the cost of repair or replacement may fall under the tenant's responsibility. However, it is crucial to consult local laws, as some jurisdictions may still consider AC repairs as the landlord's responsibility, regardless of the cause.

How to properly maintain an AC unit to hopefully avoid costly repairs

By regularly maintaining and cleaning the AC unit, you may be able to extend the lifespan of the unit and avoid costly repairs. Depending on the type of unit, make sure to:

  • Clean or replace air filters regularly.
  • Keep the outdoor unit clear of debris.
  • Check for refrigerant leaks and call a professional if needed.
  • Set the thermostat to an energy-efficient temperature.
  • Schedule professional maintenance at least once a year.
  • Ensure air ducts are sealed and free of blockages.
  • Practice proper ventilation in the home.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions and safety precautions.