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The AC in the 3-story townhouse I rent broke and needs to be replaced. The landlord obtained several quotes and decided on a contractor to do the replacement, which hasn't been scheduled yet (but is probably a week or so out). Temperatures are forecast to be near 90 for the next several days (and above 90 next week), and it gets unbearably hot in the house when it is that hot outside. Fans help when it is cooler outside, but don't provide adequate relief when it is that hot.

The landlord first had (or tried to have) the AC repaired 3 times, before deciding to replace it. Our first notification to the landlord and property manager that there was a problem with the AC was almost a month and a half ago

Does the landlord have an obligation to provide any kind of accommodation until the AC is repaired? Accommodations could be anything from renting portable AC units (how many?), paying for a hotel, reducing the next rent payment, or something else. Is the answer dependent on the forecast or actual temperatures, and does it change if children are living in the rental?

This is in Virginia, USA and the lease is a common law lease (i.e., not governed by the VRLTA).

From what I could find online, the landlord has to maintain the residence in a fit and habitable manner, but "fit and habitable" is never defined, nor did I find anything about the landlord making accommodations for the broken equipment until it is adequately repaired.

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I am a landlord in several states but not Virginia. Without researching the laws of Virginia specifically, most states use a prase similar to "fit and habitable” which does not include luxury or comfort items such as air conditioning. Some states will include a clause for installed items outside of "fit and habitable" which could include air conditioning if permanently installed.

In all respects the term "reasonable" comes into play. For example, you state the landlord has attempted to repair the unit and is ultimately opting to install a new unit. As long as the attempts by the landlord are reasonable in the eyes of the judge who makes the determination in any case, then the landlord has acted responsibly. The landlord is not responsible for compensation of any type in such cases. In addition, no losses are incurred by you as a result will satisfy the court. The landlord is not responsible for alternative housing arrangements or temporary accommodation. This includes whether the law requires permanently installed equipment to be maintained.

Keep in mind that equipment fais from time to time. The fact that the air conditioning has failed is not a breach of the law or lease. Nor is it a breach of the law or lease to enter the apartment to effect repairs.

Considering most people work when repair technitions are available, this becomes a necessity. A landlord should put you on notice that someone may enter the apartment. Considering the situation where you filed a complaint, rightfully of course, and several repairs have been made as well as a new unit being installed, you are on notice. Even then, the landlord must knock loudly, announce themselves, and enter with caution. Any professional landlord will act professionally including making sure the technician act professionally and responsibly. (Covered topic for completeness.)

From a landlords perpsective, landlords prefer to be responsive and protect their investment which can include the cost of recruiting and retaining a tenant as well as the property itself. However, repairs cannot always be had in real-time. Landlords are dependant upon others to do the repairs especially for air conditioning. They simply have to wait for an available technition and parts. We prefer to satisfy our customers and have repairs done once and quickly. We do not want to pay for repairs more than once of course. The fact that your landlord has paid for several repairs and now a new unit is a consideration.

You have no recourse here. Your landlord appears to have acted appropriately.

  • I completely understand equipment fails - I had it happen to me when I was a homeowner. And access has never been a problem - I work from home. Maybe you misunderstood when I said the landlord tried to repair it multiple times - the root problem is a refrigerant leak, and technicians came out multiple times to add refrigerant (among other things). They were always able to access the unit, as I was home. It's just that putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound won't solve anything... – mmathis Jun 18 '18 at 16:48
  • @mmathis I agree with your being annoyed. It is not uncommon to recharge a unit only to find out it was leaking. Some units need to be recharged each year while not leaking making it harder to tell if someone is not familiar with the unit. One unit I had never needed recharging in 20 years and we checked it each year. In the end, I rebuilt the entire unit, only the casing remained, just to avoid future problems. One unit needed to be recharged each year. Another unit was attended several times before changing the coil in the unit. Leaks can be hard to find. It can be annoying! Cheers!! – closetnoc Jun 18 '18 at 17:06
  • @mmathis I included the access issue for future readers. It sounds like the process was correct, however, I might have suspected a leak sooner. One tech I used has a sniffer which could detect leaks easier. It was an expensive tool of course and I do not suspect everyone would have one. Still, having such a tool would be more professional. My own unit was leaking at a connection for a coil (outside) which only needed to be evacuated, reconnected, then recharged. Still, even with a sniffer, it took a couple of visits to find it. Cheers!! – closetnoc Jun 18 '18 at 17:12

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