“Help, No A/C!”

ac
Photo by PoPville flickr user brunofish

In other painful property management queries:

“Dear PoPville,

My husband and I have been without air conditioning for a week now in our rental unit and it’s HOT outside! We have called our landlord multiple times, and although they sent someone over one day, the problem is still not fixed. Our property manager (Fred A. Smith Co.) is incredibly unresponsive, and we don’t know what to do next. Any tips from readers about what to do next would be helpful!”

26 Comment

  • Recommend to continue asking your property management/landlord to send someone over ASAP. They should fix that immediately, no questions. You need to address with them their policy on this, and how long they will take to respond to this in the future if this were to ever happen again. Next, look into help from friends – can you stay with a buddy or two for a couple of days? Is there anything you can give them in exchange for their hospitality? Next, look into places where you can rent an A/C unit until it get fixed. It will cost, but at least you’ll be able to withstand the heat.

  • Damn, sorry to hear about your situation. Is there any way you can buy a window unit? Seems like a pretty easy fix and they’re not terribly expensive. Maybe the property management can reimburse you at some point? I looked in to renting at a place run by the same company and I’m glad I did my research. Yikes. https://www.yelp.com/biz/fred-a-smith-company-washington

    Good luck!

  • Is A/C in your lease? If not you’re SOL. If it is and they’re not fixing it, go talk to OTA.

    • Landlords are required to maintain appliances under dc law. They don’t have to provide ac, but if they do, they need to fix it. No need to mention it in the lease.

      • Absolutely untrue. Leases typically enumerate the appliances being provided for the tenant. If A/C is in the unit, but not mentioned on the lease the landlord has no obligation to ensure it’s in working order. Landlords are free to provide units with non-functioning A/C or A/C that’s not guaranteed.
        .
        In fact, OTA guidance specifically notes A/C must be mentioned in the lease.

        • Ota guidance isn’t what binds a landlord, so that guidance is meaningless. The dc housing code I cited below states clearly if ac is provided it must be maintained with no mention of a lease. I’m unclear if you can provide a unit with broken appliances, but I’m quite sure you can’t provide ac that “isn’t guaranteed” beyond power outages beyond your control.
          Unless the lease said they are not providing AC, then they’re going to be required to repair and inspect what’s there.

        • That appears to be wrong. D.C.M.R. Title 12G, Section 608 provides that:

          “The owner or operator of a housing business, who provides air conditioning as a service either through individual air conditioning units or a central air conditioning system, shall maintain each such air conditioning unit or system in safe and good working condition so that it is capable of providing, during a period starting no later than May 15 and ending no earlier than September 15, an inside temperature, in the rooms it is intended to serve, equal to the greater of: (a) 78 ºF (26 ºC); or (b) at least 15 ºF (9 ºC) less than the outside temperature. “

    • The idea that they don’t have to fix AC, whether it is mentioned in the lease or not, is SO crazy wrong that one wonders about you people who come here to post otherwise. Do you work for property management companied that you purposely try to spread disinformation? Nuts.
      .
      Thanks to you posters who set the record straight.

  • If your lease requires A/C then the landlord must keep it in working order between May 15 – Sept 15. If that’s the case, my guess is the landlord is dragging his feet because the Sept. 15 cut off date is approaching.

    • Wait I didn’t know those were the rules 0_0.

      My suggestion was to submit the complaint in writing then follow up with whatever housing authority if they fail to complete the task.

      • Anything that’s included in your lease as an amenity must be kept in good working order. They are not allowed to say “tough luck” if the A/C, laundry machine, or dishwasher breaks. Why? Because it’s factored into the market price when you take the apartment. Apartments with more amenities fetch a higher price.
        .
        At this point, I would talk with the property manager and landlord, stating that you are hiring an A/C tech and will be deducting the amount from next month’s rent.

    • Ota website mentions dates for window screens March 15- November 15…. Not AC. The housing code says in 14-510 that if ac is provided it must be able to cool 15 degrees below outside temp.

  • Would this be something the DCHA would have any influence over (or do they deal with other stuff)? I would think in this high heat there’s a credible health threat for certain individuals (the same for extreme cold weather). Fred A. Smith Co. sounds like they could be in violation of some city ordinance – god knows there are enough of them in DC that I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something that deals with this area. (note to self, never rent from Fred A. Smith Co.)

    • Yea, but as far as I’m aware, ac isn’t an emergency. Maybe vulnerable tenants or extreme temps would change that fact. Heat, on the other hand, is an emergency and a 1 day fix. Dcra is who you want to call.

      • Good to know DCRA is the correct agency. Seems strange to me that an ordinance would only cover the one end of the temperature spectrum – people die as easily from extreme heat as they do from extreme cold.

  • WIndow units are cheap. Buy one on your own for the time being and get out of the heat, and get your landlord to foot the bill… or else get the AC repaired on your own and give the LL the bill…. it’s more or less an emergency sitch in this heat. Take control.

    • (I bet you can even rent or borrow an AC unit if you poke around!) Anyway, the LL should be responsive to picking up the tab — pay for it now and negotiate later.

  • Can also go to the Civil Division and file a TRO (temporary restraining order, $55) to get an emergency hearing date with your landlord. Sometimes in extreme cases, and no a/c in triple digit heat may qualify, you can get a hearing within a few days. Typically hearings occur in 7-10 business days.

  • I live in an Fred A Smith managed company and agree that they are pretty crap. The only way I have gotten anything done is by making friends with my resident building manager and going to him in person. Last summer when I first moved in, my window A/C unit wasn’t working… It turned on and the fan worked, but the coolant portion didn’t work. I told my building manager and he installed a brand new one within a few days. I’ve noticed that since they switched to only taking maintenance requests through the online portal, absolutely NOTHING gets addressed. Only thing to be said for this company is that their units are cheap.

    Also, how long ago did the guy come in? He may have just been checking the model/to see if he could fix it, and they had to order the parts or the correct unit.

  • Welcome to the club! I’m also in a Fred A. Smith building, and also having AC issues. In my case, they did send a tech out, and I justthissecond got a call back from the HVAC company that they have tracked down the needed part for my ancient AC and will be out to fix it a week from Monday. (It’s not the end of the world — my AC “works” now, I just have to turn the blower on or off at the breaker.)
    I have never, ever heard from anyone at FAS, though (they ignored my concern in the same maintenance request about my smoke detector, but I fixed that myself), just the HVAC company.
    If you would like to call the HVAC company to see if they’ve been contacted by FAS, it’s Youngblood HVAC and I’ve heard from Lisa about scheduling service. 717-262-8058.

  • I would also discuss a timeline for the repair with the landlord. Maybe 5 days. And I would let the landloard know that if it is not fixed by then, that you are going to have it fixed yourself and will deduct the cost of the repair from your next rent check. I would include a letter stating the reason you have deducted the amount, when you send the check

  • Sucks, but if the unit needs to be replaced or a part ordered, then it may take some time, unfortunately. I don’t know how much is reasonable; but Labor Day weekend probably didn’t help things and accounts for some of the delay. But someone from the HVAC people or FAS should have told you what’s going on. Were you home when the HVAC people were there? What did they say the problem was?

  • If you would be living in socialist Germany you would inform your landlord that the apartment is partially not providing the services promised and inform him that you take off 20 percent or so of the rent till it is fixed. That’s the law there. I miss it.

  • I used to work for a similar type of management company… while unlikely, it’s possible your manager got distracted by something else, missed the email, had a bigger emergency, went on vacation, etc. It was rare, but I managed a TON of units and a couple times I missed something. It was always very effective when the resident showed up in my office, I jumped right on it. Go there in person.

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