Fighting bad landlords who refuse to repair your air conditioner

Posted at 7:34 PM, Jun 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-22 23:12:24-04

Arizona Tenants Advocates has been getting slammed with phone calls recently from people complaining about bad landlords who refused or delayed fixing broken air conditioners.

One lady called the office on Wednesday saying her air conditioner had been broken for over a week.

"I've been calling my landlord every other day, what is going on when is it going to be repaired?"  she cried.

The landlord told her they had to wait for a part to be ordered, while this mother sweltered in her apartment that was 104 degrees with twin babies.

Ken Volk with Arizona Tenants Advocates said such calls made him angry. 

"It is despicable" he said.

"Your livability cannot be held hostage to a landlord's insurance issues or availability of parts.  The landlord has a responsibility to make sure you have cooling, no ifs ands or buts.  Delays are unacceptable. This is an essential service that is necessary for your life," added Volk.

Unfortunately the laws were not set in stone.  There was leeway for landlords to take advantage of the situation.  Volk recommended tenants should educate themselves about their rights, be persistent, and diligently document every communication through writing or witness statements that were signed, with times and dates included.

In Maricopa County, Volk said reasonable expectations were for a landlord to find a tenant substitute housing, or let them move out and take the living costs out of their monthly rent.  

You could also hire a licensed contractor to fix the problem yourself, and take the money out from the rent, but the risks were that the landlord could sue you for not paying your full rent.

Make sure to have proper documentation, which included your notice and communication with your landlord, along with a legal notice their office could provide you with called the "24 hour demand to restore services" document.

Volk recommended you send that to your landlord via certified mail or overnight mail.  Or have a witness you is willing to testify in court sign the form when you present it to the management office.

"Putting the landlord on legal notice usually gets them to respond.  They know what's coming," said Volk.

Tempe and Phoenix required landlords to adequately cool apartments.  For those with air conditioners, it should be no more than 82 degrees at the center of your apartment.  For those with swamp coolers it was between 87-89 degrees.

If your apartment was not cooling properly, Volk recommended documenting that as well.

"Get a digital thermometer with a cell phone and date on it, put it on a chair in the middle of the room, take a video of it and say on this day, at this time it is 92 degrees in my house," recommended Volk.

You could also bring in an air cooling specialist to write out his observations.

"Landlords typically get free reign in the state of Arizona.  The courts are biased against renters,' said Volk.  That's why he encouraged tenants to arm themselves with knowledge and be prepared to fight.

You can get the paperwork or more information by contact the Arizona Tenants Advocates office at 480-557-8905 or visiting their website