The summer months are upon us and that means that air conditioning units will be working overtime. In southern Oregon, where I live and manage rental properties, we’ve been having some pretty hot weather with most days in the mid 90’s. I’ve gotten several calls already this summer from different tenants indicating air conditioners were not working properly. I always dread these calls because I know how much repairs to air conditioners can cost but I realize as a landlord that having properly functioning cooling and heating is the law.
By law landlords must repair the primary heating and air conditioning unit and major appliances swiftly. Failure to do so breaches the rental contract and poses a safety risk. Generally speaking, as long as the landlord makes all reasonable efforts to repair the problem, there will be no compensation to the tenants. The courts have consistently found that if a landlord attempts to get an air conditioning repairman out, the repairman is backlogged with work for instance, or needs to order parts from out of state, even if it takes three to five days to complete the air conditioning repairs, legally the tenants are not entitled to compensation.
However, Oregon statute states that if the landlord deliberately or negligently fails to supply the tenant with essential services, the tenant can do an number of things to remedy the situation. However, as along as the landlord is attempting to make the repairs, these options are not available to the tenant.
1.The tenant can go to a motel and deduct the daily rent from the motel bill, suing for diminished rental value, or obtaining substitute essential services i.e. a rental air conditioning unit, and deduct those expenses from the rent.
2.The tenant can give the landlord a 5-day Health and Safety Noncompliance Notice for failure to supply an essential service, and if the landlord cannot correct the noncompliance within five days, the tenant can terminate the lease, vacate, and ask for their deposit back.
3. Also, if the cost of the repair is less than one-half of one month’s rent or $300.00, whichever is greater, the tenant can serve written Notice on the landlord and if repairs are not done, hire their own licensed and bonded contractor to come in and do the repairs.
The tenant must elect between one of these three remedies and cannot do more than one. As a landlord you should document all of the efforts you have made to correct the cooling problem in the event that the tenant attempts to sue for compensation later. The same laws apply to heating and would apply to lack of heating during the winter months.