ABC13 Renters' Rights: What if your A/C breaks? 1st, make sure your rent is paid, here's why

Courtney Carpenter Image
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
What rights do renters have if the A/C breaks?
A renter's lease or a city ordinance may require the landlord to protect the tenant from extreme temperatures, possibly including A/C repairs.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The heat continues, and for some renters, so do problems with their air conditioning. ABC13 has heard from several viewers who are struggling with hot apartments and aren't sure what to do when asking for a fix.

There's no Texas law requiring landlords to provide A/C across the board. However, your lease or a city ordinance may require your landlord to protect you from extreme temperatures.

Is A/C required where you rent within the City of Houston?

The answer is: No. Within the City of Houston, there is nothing in the building code that requires A/C.

However, this city ordinance says if where you live does have A/C, the landlord must maintain a maximum inside temperature of 20 degrees lower than the outside temperature. So if it's 100 degrees outside and you have A/C, it has to be able to at least cool 80 degrees inside.

Chapter 10, Article IX, Division 4, Sec. 10-363

In each habitable space, if screens are not provided as required in subsection (e)(2) of this section, provide and maintain in good operating condition refrigerated air equipment capable of maintaining a maximum inside temperature 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the outside temperature or 80 degrees Fahrenheit, whichever is warmer;

If you are supposed to have A/C where you rent and you don't, what should you do?

If you live in an apartment and your lease states that you should have A/C and you don't, you're going to want to make a request for a repair in writing and send that to your landlord or apartment management. It is best to send this letter via certified mail with the return receipt requested.

This step is important as it documents the issue and starts the timeline for when your landlord is required to make at least a good effort to fix the issue.

Ryan Marquez, a clinical associate professor, and Civil Justice Clinic director at the University of Houston, said that the timeline for a repair effort should be no more than a week in this type of heat we've been dealing with.

"They have a reasonable time to make a diligent effort to repair, is what the language says. Now, the statute says seven days is deemed reasonable absent other circumstances. So you know for sure probably for this type of thing, seven days is probably the maximum," Marquez explained.

If your landlord has not made a diligent effort within a week and you have followed the property code on how to notify them, you can file a repair and remedy case with the justice of the peace.

Remember, when you are making a request for your landlord to fix your A/C or any other issue, if you are not current on your rent, by law, your landlord doesn't have to fix anything.

If you would like help getting started in writing a request for repair for your landlord, you can use this guided form, from Texas Law Help.

Do you have questions about your rent? Are you struggling to get help from a landlord? Send us your questions, and we will look into it.

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