Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Are landlords required to provide all the heating and cooling needs of their tenants? And when a landlord offers some or all of the home's HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), are they also required to maintain them? Or can landlords share this responsibility with their tenants? (https://www.eastbaypmc.com/6-lease-essentials/)
The HVAC system is essential in a rental property. Tenants need a home where the temperature is properly regulated according to the time of year; cool in summer and warm in winter. But as significant as the HVAC is for the comfort and health of tenants, they are not entirely a landlord's responsibility.
According to the law, landlords are only responsible to provide heating in their rental properties. Based on the principle of implied warranty of habitability, which expects the landlord to make a rental home habitable before they hand it over to a tenant, cooling is not one of the things landlords must do.
But the majority of landlord's will still go ahead to include air conditioning in the home before they rent it out. It is for the advantage of both tenants and landlords. It makes the rental more attractive to prospective tenants and allows the landlord to charge a higher rent. But are landlords also required to maintain the home's HVAC?
HVAC maintenance in a rental property; whose responsibility?
There are no fixed rules for how to approach HVAC maintenance. The allotment of responsibilities for HVAC maintenance depends on the tenant's use of the systems, the structure of the lease agreement and the type of property (residential or commercial, single or
multi-floors, single or multifamily) .There are three basic models landlords can adopt for HVAC maintenance in a rental property. The property owner can assume complete responsibility for the HVAC, they can share the burden with tenants, or they can make it the full responsibility of tenants.
1. The landlord maintains the HVAC
With this model, the property owner is responsible for routine maintenance, emergency repairs and replacement of worn-out components. To pay for this service, the landlord builds the cost of HVAC maintenance into the base rent that tenants pay. This model is often the best where it is easy for the owner to estimate the tenant's energy consumption.
In a multi-floor commercial property with many tenants, this model exists where there is little variation in the tenants' energy use. This uniformity allows the landlord to charge all tenants a flat rate. It is also possible, with this model, for the landlord to vary the rate and charge a specific tenant a higher or lower rent based on their use. Overall this is the most convenient model from tenant's point of view.
2. HVAC maintenance is a shared responsibility
Here, there is a splitting of responsibilities between owner and renter; each party has specific aspects of HVAC maintenance. In some instances of this, HVAC maintenance has both repairs and replacement component. The owner takes responsibility for replacing the damaged parts of the systems, while the tenant is responsible for maintenance.
To ensure that tenants do their part, and there is no willful negligence of the system, resulting in frequent need to replace parts, the landlord may require access to maintenance records. Additionally, the landlord will ensure that only a competent HVAC professional is assigned to maintain the systems. But a shared model does not always take this form.
In some cases where a rental property has tenants with diverse patterns of energy use, the owner may retain the responsibility for making all HVAC maintenance arrangements. However, the tenants pay directly for every repair, rather than as a part of the base rent. The shared model of maintenance gives both parties some measure of control, but it can be unclear.
3. The tenant maintains the HVAC
This model is the least common HVAC maintenance model. It is also the one that is rarely favored by tenants. In this model, the tenant is wholly responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of the home's HVAC systems. However, the systems remain the property of the landlord, and tenants cannot take them when they leave the rental.
The problem with this model is that a tenant may inherit an HVAC system that is at the end of its lifespan as the lease begins. Secondly, if the costs of repair and parts replacement become too high, tenants can elect to neglect the systems. Due to its tendency to create conflicts, this model is not very popular.
Which model is the best? The best HVAC maintenance model for a rental is that model which effectively addresses the peculiar needs of the property. Regardless of the model they choose, the important thing is for landlords to include their HVAC maintenance terms in the lease agreement and discuss the issues with tenants at the beginning of the lease.
By Christina Rawson, CEO