Landlord or Tenant: Who’s Responsible for HVAC Service and Maintenance Needs?

The presence of HVAC units in a rental property comes with responsibilities. HVAC system requires regular services and maintenance in other to prevent it from breaking down often.
Sometimes, there may be confusion about who is responsible for maintaining HVAC units on a rental property. This often results in disputes between the landlord and tenants.
The implied warranty of habitability mandates that a rental property should meet the following needs:

  • Functional heating, electric, gas, and plumbing system
    Adequate ventilation
  • Functional smoke and carbon monoxide detector
  • Extermination of pest infestations
  • Functional toilets, shower/bathtub, hot water, and sinks
  • Waterproof walls and roofs
  • Devoid of health hazards such as molds, lead paints, and asbestos
  • Safe emergency exits
  • Doors that lock

From the above, landlords are not required to provide an air conditioning system for a rental property. Most people consider this as an amenity. However, each state has its own laws and requirements for rental properties.

Common HVAC maintenance issues

For rental properties with an HVAC system, issues often arise from the heating units and the control network. This can be observed in:

Air filters – HVAC air filters trap dust particles and debris before the air gets conducted by the cooling or heating system. It keeps the air that is circulating inside the house clean and free of dirt. Air filters can be found in the blower compartment or return air duct. Within a short time, the filter can trap significant dust particles. Dirt will build-up on the air filter and clog it. If you do not change or clean the filter, this dirt can get into the system and cause damage. So the air filter needs regular maintenance.
Thermostat – Your HVAC thermostat can have issues because of the following:

  • Batteries – Faulty thermostat batteries can cause excessive cooling or heating inside the property. Sometimes, it can even result in no cooling or heating. Always check to know if your batteries are functional and replace faulty batteries. Some batteries last up to 5 years, while others last for only a few months. Ensure to use long-lasting batteries.
  • Dust – Dust can cover the leads in the thermostat, and this will affect its functionality. Use a soft brush and a tin of compressed air to clean the leads.
  • Programming – When the programming of the thermostat is correct, it functions at optimum efficiency. Your tenants should have a copy of the HVAC manual so that they can do the programming if any problem arises.
  • Location – The location of the thermostat can affect its functionality. It should not be exposed to draft or direct sunlight, and it should not be hidden behind furniture. Place your thermostat appropriately for optimal performance.

Who is responsible for maintaining the HVAC system?

There are different models you can use to assign HVAC system responsibilities in a rental property. These are:

1. Landlord and tenants share responsibilities
This model is widespread, and both parties have some level of commitment. In this model, tenants are responsible for minor maintenance, such as replacing filters, cleaning ducts, and replacing the batteries. On the other hand, the landlord is responsible for major maintenance and repairs.

2. The landlord takes full responsibilities
Here, the landlord is responsible for everything, including the minor and major repairs. This model is commonly used in multi-family apartment properties. The issue with this model is that tenants may need repairs at odd hours. In this case, they may have to pay for the services.

3. Tenants take full responsibility
Here, all the HVAC maintenance responsibilities are shifted to the tenants. Often, tenants overlook maintenance issues when it is expensive or close to the end of their tenancy. This model is not very common because it is likely to cause disputes between the landlord and tenants.
Whatever model you choose, the policies below will prevent you from having issues with your tenants:

  • If there is damage to the HVAC system because of the tenant’s negligence, the tenant should bear full responsibility for the repairs. The tenant can be made to either pay directly or from the security deposit.
  • If the HVAC system breaks down due to normal wear and tear, then the landlord is responsible for the repairs and replacement. The fault is not from the tenant, and the tenant has no control over it.
  • Always remember to include a well-explained clause about HVAC system maintenance in your lease agreements.

In a nutshell

The HVAC system requires regular maintenance in other to prevent it from breaking down often. When an HVAC system exist in a rental property, there may be confusion about who is responsible for maintaining the HVAC units.

Different processes exist on who should be responsible for HVAC system maintenance needs. It could be shared between the landlord and tenants, the landlord solely responsible, or tenants take full responsibility.

Whatever model you choose, tenants should fix any damage that results from their negligence, and landlords should repair all the wears and tears.
You should always explain the responsibility of each party in the rental agreement to prevent disputes.