Dear PoP – Air Conditioning!

“Dear PoP,

I have been renting a house for the last four months and the owner of the house promised verbally and written in email that there would be air conditioning installed in the house. She continues to say she is contacting contractors and waiting to hear back since day one and the unit has not been installed, nor is the fan in the house powerful enough to circulate air.

Do you know what rights we have legally as far as withholding rent/complaints/etc? I have researched the DC tenant laws and it mentions a potential situation like this – an amenity that is not stated in the lease but was supposed to be supplied by the owner upon signing the contract. The fan not working to circulate air has been in issue since day one as well.

Do we sweat and wait or can we take action?”

What do you guys suggest?

14 Comment

  • How about go buy an inexpensive window unit? For less than $200 you will survive the summer nicely.

    Sometimes you can even find window units at yard sales and such for much much less.

    Good luck.

  • You don’t have a leg to stand on, assuming you signed a lease for the place. Your only option would have been to have an agreement added to the lease, neither verbal or email promises have any bearing on the issue sorry to say.

    Get a couple window rattlers and if you want to be testy withhold their cost from your next months rent.

    Amateurs 😉

  • Heat is a requirement; air conditioning is not.

    Get yourself a window unit for $200 for your bedroom until you clear things up with your landlord.

    While you’re calculating, figure out how much more your landlord would make by investing the net proceeds on the sale of the house you occupy as opposed to the net proceeds as a rental

    and you’ll see how it is that so few property owners of residential property want to be landlords here in a city that does not favor such at all and you might better understand the resulting scarcity of private rental housing in 2010 with all this whining and all manner of claim to rights in this huge false sense of entitlement people have these days that everything should be provided to them by others.

    • False sense of entitlement?

      Why all the hate? I get along very well with my landlord–I pay the rent on time and make sure he knows about potential problems that could affect the value of the property and he fixes things in the house when they need it. Maybe you would find renting out property less of a hassle if you came at it with a more positive attitude.

  • I’m not sure what would happen if the landlord says no or what the legal issues would be, but you could try bluffing a little with something like: “we understand you are very busy so we were thinking we could take care of finding someone to install an air conditioning system and just withholding the money from the rent with a copy of the bill for your records.” I’m also pretty sure that even without it being in the lease there are rules about the min/max temperatures if tenants don’t have control of heating/cooling systems…

    Also, I don’t have time to go through it now, but if it’s useful I came across this a while ago:

  • The DC Superior Court has a new division for tenant-side complaints:

    Also check out the L&T Resource Center:

  • Whoever is right or wrong in this situation, you probably have little legal recourse, and it is inconceivable that the time & expense involved with that would be worth it. Get a window unit for a hundred bucks, or move out if prefer.

    For what it’s worth, it can be extremely difficult to get contractors to even do estimates for central air this time of year. I called several people last spring for my own house and the one that even called me back (out of 3 or 4) said that there was no way they would even be able to schedule the work until fall. They might be telling you the truth.

    But at the end of the day I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t just buy a window unit and stop suffering. You’ll pay back the price of the unit in about one month versus how much electricity for central air would cost you anyway.

    Captch: “unmarked oil.” From BP to me!

    • I have to agree with this. Have you even considered the pain-in-the-ass factor of living in the house while they’re installing the vent system for central AC? Just suck it up, buy a decent window unit that you can take with you when you move out, and sell it on Craigslist if your landlord does come through with putting in central AC.

  • We actually have 2 extra window units we’ll be putting on Craigslist shortly. They work well and will be significantly less than $200. They’re just taking up floorspace now.

  • I actually have a window unit you can have free of charge if you come get it in Petworth (sorry PFL to maybe ruin a potential sale). It’s an older unit but still works just fine.

  • yeah ask around — people allllways have window units they’re trying to get rid of, or are willing to share, in my experience.

    I would always think that the renter has the advantage in these situations, but that depends on how much you want to deal with it. I’d just ask your landlord if she’ll reimburse you if you buy some used window units. Lie about how much you paid for your trouble, take that money and put it toward your increased bills.

  • I would just buy your own window units. You can buy a window unit for $200 and resell for $100 (I’ve sold used ACs before and it was easy – tons of replies). I think it would definitely be worth $100 not to suffer from the heat all summer. If you don’t have a car I recommend buying them at Frager’s (Cap Hill) or True Value on 17th St NW (Dupont) and taking a taxi home. They are easy to install.

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