Landlord air conditioning responsibilities
Ohio law requires landlords to provide heat but did you know they don't have to provide air conditioning even in these sweltering temps.
Ohio law requires landlords to provide heat but did you know they don't have to provide air conditioning even in these sweltering temps?
Local experts laid out the law on precisely what landlords are required to provide and what tenants can do about it.
When it comes to the unbearable heat, Ohio landlords aren't footing the bill to help cool things down.
"They have no responsibility to provide air conditioning," says Struthers Law Director John Zomoida.
The Ohio Revised Code specifies that landlords have to provide heat, but doesn't mention air conditioning.
"Unlike in the winter months where the landlords have to provide heating systems that work, there is no requirement that a landlord has to provide air conditioning to a tenant," says Zomoida.
However, if a house or apartment has an AC unit already installed, Attorney Patricia Dougan, from Community Legal Aid Northeast Ohio, says landlords are on the hook to make sure they work.
"A landlord has the responsibility of maintaining and upkeeping an air conditioning unit if the unit is there when the tenant moves in," says Dougan.
Zomoida says it a bit more of a grey area.
"So the argument that the landlord will make is that if we don't have to provide the air conditioning in the first place, then if it breaks, then we can choose whether or not we want to replace it or if we're not going to replace it," Zomoida said.
As the temperatures rise, so may the tempers, but if there is a dispute over a broken air conditioner staying cool is the first step to getting it fixed.
Zomoida says tenants should never withhold rent in order to attempt to secure maintenance.
First, a tenant must provide notice of maintenance to the landlord in written form.
"I always tell people, pick up the phone, it's easiest," says Dougan. "But then also send them a written request."
From there, landlords have what the law says is a "reasonable" amount of time to perform the maintenance. In most situations that amount to 30 days.
From there, if action isn't taken, a tenant can take the case to court and begin sending rent payments to escrow. Eventually, if things progress, tenants can ask the court to give the rent that was put into escrow back to the tenant to provide the necessary repairs.
Dougan says that people with breathing problems like COPD or asthma can get a letter from the doctor that would help them make a case for getting an air conditioning unit put in.
"If the tenant has a health condition that would require it," says Dougan. "That would be a Fair Housing reasonable accommodation request that they would be allowed to install one."
From there, the tenant could be required to take the case to arbitration to prove a need for the air conditioner, in which case a landlord may have to comply.
In addition, both Zomoida and Dougan say any tenant who decides to put in a window unit of their own should know that they may be liable for any damage done to a window or frame.
"It depends on the level of damage. If it's just paint scrapings off a window sill, I would say you'd fall under normal wear and tear, but if the whole window ledge falls off, the tenant would likely be held liable," said Zomoida.
And while the law doesn't current;y require landlords to provide air conditioning, cities could institute their own ordinances that require it for the health and safety of their community.
"Municipalities certainly have the ability to pass ordinances, that would govern landlord-tenant relationships," said Zomoida. "I see no reason right now that I'm aware of that a municipality could not pass something that would require in addition to providing some type of basic, minimal heating requirements, also provide the cooling requirements as well."
It's an option that Dougan says many cities might begin to look at if high temperatures continue since it is a health and safety issue.
If there is a dispute with a landlord, it's easy to say check the contract. And while you should do that, there are other resources out there.
Below are multiple links that may help out if there is a contract dispute between a tenant and a landlord: