Apartment Air Conditioning Laws in Texas
Hot days are common in Texas, which is why air conditioning is standard in most buildings. However, not all apartments and rental properties have air conditioners. With those that do, who is responsible for fixing and maintaining the unit?
Let's dive into apartment air conditioning laws in Texas and how they apply to both renters and landlords.
Apartment Air Conditioning Laws in Texas
Under Texas laws, landlords are not obligated to provide air conditioning. However, if an air conditioner unit already exists, the law may force landlords to pay for repairs. So, if the air conditioner unit breaks down, a landlord might have to fix it if they own it.
While the Texas property code doesn't list air conditioners specifically, it does refer to the "health and safety" of tenants. Since Texas temperatures can often exceed 90 or 100 degrees, air conditioning counts. Overheating does affect the physical health of an ordinary tenant.
Landlord-Tenant Laws in Texas for Air Conditioning
Beyond the "physical health or safety" statute, no other state laws exist regarding air conditioning units. That said, there are some specific exemptions, including:
- City Ordinances. Texas has unique city ordinances for air conditioning. Cities like Houston and Dallas have specific rules regarding interior temperatures.
For example, in Houston, the air conditioner law states equipment must allow "a maximum inside temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the outside temperature, or 80 degrees Fahrenheit, whichever is warmer."
- Lease Agreements. Landlords may waive their repair responsibilities and pass them to the tenant. All renters need to read their lease agreement to ensure that air conditioner repairs do not fall on their shoulders.
- Broken Appliances. If a landlord-owned air conditioner breaks from wear and tear or faulty parts, it is often the landlord's responsibility. However, if the tenant or a visitor breaks the unit, they must pay instead.
How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix the AC in Texas?
State law requires landlords to make a "diligent effort to repair the problem within a reasonable time." Seven days is reasonable, but it is not an enforceable rule. Also, landlords cannot use the tenant's security deposit to pay for repairs.
If a landlord does not make an effort within a reasonable time, tenants have options. They can terminate the lease, get reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs, or sue the landlord.
That said, tenants should create a paper trail to show a lack of action from the landlord. The best option is to send a certified written notice to the landlord notifying them of the problem.
After a week with no response, the tenant can seek legal advice. They should also send a second notice to be safe.
Does Landlord Insurance Cover Window Air Conditioners?
Yes, it does. However, the insurance policy only protects against 16 named perils. Let's break down when and how landlord insurance pays off.
Damage to the Air Conditioner
A standard personal property policy only covers 16 named perils like (see the image above for the complete list):
- Wind and Hail
- Falling Objects
- Vehicle Damage
- Weight of Ice and Snow
- Burst Pipes from Freezing
Insurers do not cover any intentional damage, nor wear and tear, or maintenance-related damages. In cases of deliberate damage, landlords must charge the tenants. For wear and tear and maintenance issues, the landlord pays out of pocket.
Property insurance also often pays actual cost value (ACV). ACV pays less than replacement cost value (RCV) since it deducts depreciation. Landlords can upgrade to RCV coverage, which pays for a new AC unit.
The landlord also must pay the deductible before insurance kicks in. If the deductible is higher than the repair cost, the landlord should not file a claim. Instead, they should pay for fixes out of pocket. If they file a claim, premiums go up, so it is wise to only file on larger claims.
Damage the Air Conditioner Causes
Although uncommon, air conditioners can cause damage to property and people. Some examples of these situations include:
- Falling Objects. If a window air conditioner falls and hurts someone, who is liable? If the tenant caused the unit to fall, they are responsible. Otherwise, the landlord is at fault.
- Water Damage. Sometimes, air conditioner units can drip water and chemicals. Over time, these liquids can seep into flooring and other surfaces, causing damage. If the tenant does not report a leaking AC, they are responsible. Otherwise, the landlord is at fault.
- Health Problems. Dirty air conditioners can breed mold and other bacteria, which then get into the air. In this case, the tenant must prove that the air conditioner caused any health issues, which can be tricky. If proven, the tenant can sue the landlord, and the landlord liability insurance will cover the lawsuit expenses and judgments.
In all situations, liability insurance covers any potential legal fees.
However, standard landlord insurance may not provide enough funds. If a landlord wants to increase their coverage, they can buy umbrella insurance. Typically, liability protection only pays up to $100,000 or $300,000. By comparison, umbrella insurance can go up to $1 million or more.
Equipment Mechanical Breakdown Endorsement for Air Conditioners
Since landlord insurance only protects against specific perils, landlords may need extra coverage. An equipment mechanical breakdown endorsement includes situations that are not part of a standard policy. This endorsement still does not cover wear and tear, but it can consist of faulty parts, mechanical failures, or power surges.
For landlords, the endorsement may also pay for expenses related to broken AC units. For example, when the landlord must refund partial rent payments until the unit gets fixed.
Get the Right Landlord Insurance
Whether you are a landlord or a renter, it pays to have the best policy. We can help you compare rates and plans to fit your budget and needs. Click below and get a landlord insurance quote to see what we can offer.
Hope that helps!
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