You’re renting a home, it’s over 90 degrees outside (and inside) and the air conditioner just went out. Now your landlord isn’t responding to your calls, texts or emails. A heated situation like this can put you into full-blown panic mode. Hopefully your landlord will respond and make the air conditioning repairs quickly. But if they drag their feet, New Jersey law gives you the right to remedy the problem on your own.
Do Landlords Have to Provide Air Conditioning Repairs?
Landlords must repair problems that make a rental unit unfit to live in, or “uninhabitable.” The implied warranty of habitability requires landlords to maintain their rentals in a condition fit for the “occupation of human beings” (it’s based on common sense) and includes things such as effective waterproofing, plumbing, gas, heating and electricity in good working order, floors and stairways in good repair, etc. For example, it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix a leaking roof because the implied warranty of habitability requires that the roof not leak.
As to less serious repairs such as for the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher or washing machine, the rental agreement may provide for either the tenant or the landlord to fix a particular item.
Sweating Out Air Conditioning Repairs
Unfortunately, there is no law that landlords have to provide air conditioning; it is not considered a vital service like heating is. BUT, assuming there was a working air conditioner when you leased the space, your landlord is required to repair it, unless it’s a commercial property (in which case, refer to the terms of the lease agreement).
If your lease requires the landlord to provide heat, the landlord must give you the amount of heat required by the state codes and the local town or city ordinance. Some New Jersey cities have programs to provide an emergency delivery of oil, at government expense, when tenants have no heat because the landlord did not buy oil. The city then collects the money directly from the landlord.
Repair and Deduct
You have a right as a tenant to live in housing that is safe, clean, and decent and under certain conditions, tenants can use rent money to make repairs of conditions that are covered by the implied warranty of habitability. Known as repair and deduct, if a landlord fails to take care of important maintenance, New Jersey tenants have legal rights.
For an overview of New Jersey landlord-tenant law, including your rights to habitability and options for getting your landlord to make repairs, see http://www.lsnjlaw.org/publications/pages/manuals/tenantsrights.pdf.
Sweating it Out
While you’re waiting for your landlord to call you back, try to cool things off by covering windows, turn on ceiling fans, and eliminate the use of excess appliances. Read more on our blog: “Quick and Simple Ways To Stay Cool.”