Renters learn rights, responsibilities when air conditioning breaks

Renters learn rights, responsibilities when air conditioning breaks

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jul 9, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Few things are worse than sweating it out in the summer heat when the air conditioning breaks. But it's not always an easy fix for a renter during a hot Las Vegas summer. 

That has some tenants wondering what their rights and responsibilities are when the unit breaks down.
"It was so uncomfortable that to sleep I would need a squirt bottle - and a fan to blow on me after the squirt bottle - just to be comfortable to fall asleep," said renter Treva Ledbetter.
The air conditioning is hard at work in her apartment at Sahara Gardens on the east side of town. The morning temperature was about 77 degrees, though Ledbetter said it was unbearable about three weeks ago when her unit broke.
Ledbetter said she first complained to the front office and within a day, a maintenance crew stopped by to address the issue. But Ledbetter said she went on to write two separate letters to the office in the next two weeks because she believes the unit still is not fixed.
"They washed down the coils and the air conditioning unit," said Ledbetter. "They said it was full of crud and should get a lot cooler."
Action News used a device to check the temperature in Ledbetter's apartment. The hottest recorded temperature was about 78 degrees.
Her complaint is one of several made to Action News from renters who in similar situations and upset with their air conditioning.
"You have a right to have your house cooled off to a temperature that's comfortable and your kids to be comfortable in your house," said Ledbetter.
So what should other renters do in a similar situation?
"Make sure they notify the landlord in writing prior to taking any further actions," said Cecy Roa, intake specialist with the Tenants' Rights Office at the non-profit Nevada Legal Services.
Roa said the biggest mistake: most renters do not put their air conditioning complaints in writing to the landlord as required by state law.
"And keep a copy for their records," said Roa.
Once they do that, Roa said the landlord has between two and 14 days - depending on whether air conditioning is promised in the rental agreement - to either fix or make a good faith effort to fix the problem. If they don't, renters can then explore hiring their own repair person, possibly terminating the lease early or withholding rent in an escrow account.
"While it just may be just under 100 now, tomorrow it could just as well be 113 again," said Ledbetter, who's concerned about future heat waves.
Sahara Gardens released the following statement to Action News:
"Sahara Garden’s primary goal is to provide its residents with a quality living experience. After having been advised of Ms. Ledbetter’s maintenance concern, the property responded immediately and completed the work order associated with her concern. All repairs were completed in a reasonable and diligent manner, and well within the requirements of the law.  As Ms. Ledbetter has been previously advised, the property cannot guarantee a unit free of all maintenance issues – however, it can guarantee a prompt and professional response, which is what was provided to Ms. Ledbetter in this matter.”
Michael Lopardi

Michael Lopardi

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Michael Lopardi is the featured reporter of the You Ask. We Investigate. franchise at Action News.