On July 9th, 2018 a dust cloud nearly a mile high rolled across the Phoenix metro area. Traveling across 200 miles of desert, this dust cloud brought with it dirt and sand, along with hot, choking winds. It reminded many residents of the “100 year” dust storm of 2011 (also called a haboob). Dust storms are common in Arizona, occurring three or four times a year, usually in the hottest months. When the dust and summer heat roll through the state, open windows are not an option. In the summer, it’s crucial to understand your Arizona tenant rights with air conditioning, both for your comfort and safety.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
Why is air conditioning so important?
Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona’s two largest cities, are no strangers to extreme heat and soaring temperatures. They’re both “heat islands,” where tall buildings and concrete reflect and intensify the heat. Summer average temperatures in both of these cities can reach well above 100 degrees. This heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be downright dangerous.
In 2017, Arizona saw 155 heat-related deaths, five more than the previous year’s record of 150. The elderly and the chronically ill are most at risk. A spike in heat can see a rise in the demand for electricity, too, causing occasional blackouts. For people who take medications that require refrigeration, this heat-related outage puts them at risk, too.
There are laws regarding air conditioning in place all across Arizona. Here’s what you need to know.
Do landlords need to provide air conditioning in Arizona?
Under Arizona law, landlords must provide a rental unit that has fully operating appliances and is safe to occupy. This law includes offering what are considered “essential services.”
Arizona statute Title 33-1364(A) defines an “essential service” as:
“running water, gas or electrical service, or both if applicable, and reasonable amounts of hot water or heat, air conditioning or cooling, where such units are installed or offered.”
Some parts of Arizona have specific standards that apply. For example, in the city of Phoenix, rental units that use air conditioning cannot exceed a maximum temperature of 82 degrees. Evaporative coolers are allowed a slightly higher maximum temperature (86 degrees).
While these temperatures may seem excessive, when the mercury soars to 100 degrees or more, or a dust cloud forces you to close your windows during the hottest part of the summer, indoor temperatures can climb quickly to much higher levels. Arizona law requires that rental units be safe, fit, and habitable.
It is also important to note that even if renters are not up to date on their rent, landlords are not allowed to cut off utilities to “punish” tenants (as per Arizona statute Title 33-1374). This potentially deadly action is illegal and unconscionable.
What should I do if my A/C is broken?
If your rental unit has a broken A/C, it is important to take steps to ensure your safety. Before you do anything else, notify your landlord. Start with a phone call, and then follow up with an email or written notice.
Your landlord must fix your broken A/C within a specific time after written notice. This notice starts the clock.
Get relief from the heat
If your A/C is not working because there is no electricity, fill a cooler with ice and place any refrigerated medications inside. For the elderly and those who are most at risk for heat-related illness, getting to a cooling station or other air-conditioned building can also help. Throughout Maricopa County, cooling stations and donated water sites can provide immediate relief.
While you are waiting for your landlord to fix your broken A/C, follow basic heat safety tips, such as:
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid strenuous activity in the hottest part of the day
- Visit air-conditioned places during the heat of the day
- Take cool baths or showers
Watch for signs of health problems
Learn to recognize the signs of heat illness, including:
- Rapid pulse
- Heavy sweating (followed dangerously by no sweating)
- Muscle cramps
If you experience these symptoms, hydrate and seek medical attention.
How long does my landlord have to fix my A/C?
From the day you notify your landlord in writing, they have ten days to fix the problem (per Title 33-1363). This may mean providing a new air conditioning unit, calling in a repair team, or otherwise bringing your indoor temperature down to legally acceptable limits.
For landlords who fail to repair the broken A/C, renters may be able to make use of the self-help repair statute. Arizona law (Title 33-1363) allows you to notify your landlord that you will be fixing an issue yourself and deducting the cost from your rent if they have failed to fix your A/C after ten days.
There are additional conditions to this law, so it may be best to seek legal assistance before moving forward with this option. For example, you must not have caused the problem in the first place. If you broke your own unit’s air conditioning through negligence or misuse, you may be responsible for repairing it at your own expense. Further, you must use a licensed contractor, explain the work to be done, and provide an itemized receipt for the amount you are deducting from your rent.
If your landlord does not fix your broken A/C within the allotted time, Arizona tenant rights with air conditioning may allow you to terminate your lease or sue for damages (such as for medical bills or paid rent, per Title 33-1364).
Get help with Arizona tenant rights with air conditioning issues
Tenants have rights that are protected under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. In the face of a broken A/C or no electricity, it can be difficult to remember those rights and protect yourself and your interests. Know that there’s always help.
The Arizona Legal Center offers free legal assistance in understanding your renter’s rights. If your A/C is out and you cannot get relief, we may be able to explain your options. Get in touch today.
The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.