Picture this — it’s 100 degrees in Killeen, and you get home from running errands. You go to the thermostat, and lower the temperature. The air conditioner does not engage. You turn the thermostat to the “on” position. The air conditioner kicks on, but after a few minutes you notice it is not blowing cold air.
You check the air filter, but it is fine. You check the circuit breaker, but there are no tripped circuits. Now what? The question is, who is responsible for air conditioner repairs when it goes out?
The answer depends on whether you are a renter or a homeowner.
If you rent, you have a landlord. According to Section 92.052(a)(3) of the Texas Property Code, “A landlord shall make a diligent effort to repair or remedy a condition if the condition materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant.”
A landlord is not required to make repairs, however, if there is no written notice of the condition or if the tenant has not paid rent.
According to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the landlord is also not responsible if the tenant, lawful occupants or guests cause damage to the air conditioner.
The landlord must be given a “reasonable time” to make the repairs, according to the Tenant’s Rights Handbook produced by the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association and the State Bar of Texas. Reasonable time may vary depending on the situation, but Texas law determines seven days is a reasonable time.
If the landlord fails to make repairs in a reasonable time, tenants have options.
The Texas Property Code, Sections 92.056 through 92.0563 cover tenant rights. Some of the tenant rights include terminating the lease, going to a justice of the peace to force the landlord to make the repairs, or suing the landlord in civil court for one month’s rent plus $500.
One local resident, Clyde Hunter, said he had to pay for a hotel room for a few days after the air conditioning broke at the duplex he rents in Killeen. He and his wife have medical issues, and he felt he had no other choice, he said.
The city of Killeen does not offer a cooling shelter on extremely hot days, and local nonprofits like the Red Cross and Killeen HELP Center said they don’t really have options on where residents can turn if the A/C breaks down.
According to its website, the Killeen HELP Center may be able to assist with paying utility bills, but a spokesperson said they would not assist with repair costs.
Homeowners are solely responsible for the repairs. In many instances, homeowners insurance will not cover the cost of repairs to air conditioners, unless it is due to a natural disaster, such as a tree falling on it during a storm, according to Esurance.
If your appliance is still new, it may still be under warranty. Check with the manufacturer.
Homeowners can purchase additional home warranty packages that will cover the cost of some repairs of air conditioning, refrigerators, ovens or other appliances. However, Consumer Reports says to be wary of such packages.
“Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully. When we examined home warranty plans, we found that some policies will cover your refrigerator but not the icemaker that comes with it. Other policies may cover your hot-water heater but not the water tank itself,” according to consumerreports.org.