If My Heat Doesn't Work, What Are My Rights as a Tenant?

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Landlords in the United States who refuse to fix damaged heating and cooling systems are in violation of the law and have the responsibility of fixing the system within a reasonable time frame. Tenants have the right to vacate the property within a certain amount of days after giving notice to their landlord of property damage if the landlord does not make repairs. The tenant will not pay a penalty for breaking his lease under these circumstances.

Considerations

  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia require landlords to maintain a habitable living environment for tenants, which complies with all health safety codes, including the maintenance and repair of structural components and heating, electrical and plumbing systems. In most states, renters can report their landlord to their local department of building inspections if the landlord refuses to fix a damaged heating and air system.

Notice

  • Before complaining to a local or state agency, tenants must give the landlord notice of the damaged system so that the landlord has the opportunity to make repairs. Tenants should send written notice to their landlord by certified mail so that they have proof of notice given, because some disreputable landlords may deny receiving verbal notice, making it difficult for a tenant to prove her case in court. Tenants should receive a response back from their landlord that outlines when repairs will occur within a reasonable amount of days after sending notice. For example, the state of California allows the tenant to send his landlord a written notice that requires a response within a reasonable time period (five to 10 days) that the tenant determines.

Time Frame

  • Some states set strict time limits on the time a landlord has to make repairs. For example, the state of Florida requires a landlord to fix the tenant's heating system within seven days of notice, or the tenant can move out. Landlords must make repairs to heating systems quickly in emergency situations, such as when weather conditions are below freezing and the tenant does not have an alternative heat source. Landlords can provide alternative housing if emergency conditions put the tenant's health in jeopardy.

Termination

  • If a landlord refuses to fix a heating system within a set number of days or a reasonable amount of time, the tenant may terminate his rental lease early with no penalties. The exact time frame depends upon the state. Many states allow a tenant to terminate his lease in 15 days or less after giving written notice if the landlord fails to make repairs. If the tenant terminates his lease early, the landlord must return his security deposit minus any charges for property damage.

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