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What are your rights when it comes to emergency apartment repairs?

KNXV Fullscreen Let Joe Know
Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 19:11:59-04

PHOENIX — Renting and repairs can be a hassle, but what are your rights in order to get those important repairs fixed quickly, especially as those dangerously hot summer temperatures are quickly approaching?

In short, make a formal request, but do not withhold rent.

Joann said when her son's air conditioning went out inside his apartment, he called to have it fixed, but that did not happen. Day after day, he received the same response, before the complex's maintenance staff said they'd be out.

A week later, her son's air conditioning was still out.

While Phoenix has not officially hit the 100-degree mark -- we could hit it this week, actually -- it's on the way, and complaints about slow or not working air conditioning repairs tend to go way up during the summer months. For good reason as that is considered to be an emergency repair at most complexes.

So, how do you get the landlord to take action fast?

"The biggest mistake tenants do is say, 'they're not fixing something that I want fixed, so I'm just not paying rent.' That's always the wrong way to start," said Pam Bridge, an attorney with Community Legal Services in Phoenix.

She said not paying rent can lead to someone being evicted.

The first step that renters should take is to make a formal request -- in writing -- about the repairs that need to be made. If you make a call to the front office, she recommends following up with an email to ensure that it is a documented request.

Another important step, make sure to give reasonable notice for maintenance staff to fix the problem, such as 48 hours, before taking action on your own.

"You're giving your landlord a chance to fix it. (If) they don't fix it, then you can move your family into a reasonable hotel and then keep a copy of that receipt. And then you can deduct that from your rent," said Bridge.

If buying a hotel room is not an option, she said renters can buy fans or portable air conditioning units, but make sure to keep the receipts to deduct from rent later.

Bridge also said that, unlike some other tenant issues, certain cities have ordinances in place that require landlords to provide adequate cooling systems.

For example, in Phoenix and Glendale, air conditioning units must be able to cool a room, including restrooms, to at least 82 degrees. If a landlord is not able to provide that, a complaint can be filed with the city.

No matter the case, Bridge said a tenant cannot be evicted because they asked for a repair to be made or filed a complaint.

Bridge said depending on how long it takes, if a landlord fails to fix repairs in a certain period of time, the renter may have the right to break their lease without penalty. But, in order to recoup any of those costs, you may have to fight your landlord in court.

Community Legal Services have a variety of free services, sources, and legal representation if you need help with a landlord dispute. You can find those resources at https://clsaz.org.

Other resources:

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