Can landlords control a tenant’s thermostat?
Yes, landlords can control the thermostat for their rental properties in most states. While they have to provide reasonable heat, they do not have to give control of the thermostat to the tenant. That said, this is a state-by-state rule. Some states, like Arizona, that experience extreme temperatures may require that landlords provide thermostat control to tenants during very hot or cold months. Always check your local regulations before taking control of the thermostat.
What is an implied warranty of habitability, and how does it apply to heating and cooling?
Landlords are responsible for meeting an implied warranty of habitability. This is a legal phrase that means that landlords must provide certain basic amenities, such as:
- A roof to protect from the elements.
- Hot water.
- Clean water.
- Sturdy walls and floors.
- Pest extermination.
- Smoke alarms.
- Locks to protect against theft.
An implied warranty of habitability has a specific meaning when it comes to thermostats. It means that landlords must provide a reasonable amount of heat in the colder months. In a few places, landlords must provide air conditioning in the summer months. A common minimum temperature for the heating system is 68 degrees, but this can vary from one location to the next. However, an implied warranty of habitability rarely guarantees access to the thermostat. In most states, as long as a landlord provides heat, they can control the thermostat.
How should landlords accommodate reasonable temperature adjustment requests by tenants?
Because of an implied warranty of habitability, landlords usually need to make every effort to adjust the temperature if requested by a tenant. In general, the Lease Agreement dictates how to make and resolve requests for temperature adjustments. Guidance in the lease helps to remove miscommunications and frustrations between the tenant and landlord. Allowing temperature adjustments can help with energy efficiency and reduce costs. Tenants who are too warm may just open windows in the winter time, or resort to less efficient heating and cooling units.
If thermostat issues continue to arise, the landlord and tenant can come to an agreement and modify the lease using a Lease Amendment. Prompt and honest communication can help reduce frustration. It can also ensure all parties are on the same page about when thermostat adjustments need to be made.
What actions can a tenant take if there is a problem with the heating or cooling and how long do landlords have to fix it?
Problems with thermostats and heating or cooling systems can happen. While a landlord needs to be reasonable, they may not have to make changes instantly when problems arise. A landlord may wait on repairs if a home is warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer.
However, the answer to this question varies state by state. Always check state laws or contact a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney to learn about local requirements. Areas that routinely get extreme heat or cold may pose a special challenge for landlords. Landlords may have very short timeframes to fix problems after a tenant provides notice of the problem.
For tenants, the first step is to notify their landlord of the problem. If the landlord does not fix the problem within a reasonable time, tenants may take legal action. Tenants may seek legal action either through a local government agency, or in court. A landlord may be subject to fines if they do not act promptly to fix the HVAC system during extreme heat or cold. They might also need to pay for tenants to move and for housing costs until the problem is fixed.
What are some best practices for keeping tenants happy when their landlord controls the thermostat?
To keep tenants happy while controlling the thermostat, landlords can:
- Communicate the temperature they will use.
- Respond promptly to requests for a change.
- Use smart thermostats that allow tenants to control temperature only within a certain range.
- Keep the heating system and thermostat working properly at all times.
- Include all information about the heating system and thermostat in the Lease Agreement.
- Give adequate notice if something needs to change.
- Replace or repair broken systems within 24 hours.
The bottom line is, a warm tenant is a happy tenant. While controlling the thermostat can help control costs, it may require a little more work to make sure tenants are comfortable. Also, keep in mind that in rare instances, a landlord may be liable for injuries that occur due to temperatures that are too hot or cold.
If you have legal questions about the heating or cooling of your rental, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.