Two Words No Landlord Wants to Hear
We’re leaving! That’s what tenants in one Texas apartment complex told their apartment manager after they’d been without air conditioning for more than a week, while outside, temperatures soared above 100 degrees.
Since then, families have been fleeing the apartment complex looking for a cooler place to live. One tenant told the news she feared that leaving her children in the apartment under these conditions would trigger a visit from Child Protective Services. Instead, she found an alternative place for them to stay.
The property is owned by an out-of-state landlord who hired a property manager to oversee the building, according to the report.
City officials report that they continue to received a number of complaints about the faulty AC each day. While apartment maintenance workers appear to be working on a fix, the AC keeps breaking down. According to reports, the tenants are continually being told that it will be fixed within a day; however, the property manager is also quoted as saying he believes he legally has 30 days to fix it.
Tenants who have nowhere else to go are sticking it out in the swelter. At least one tenant is reporting serious health complications from the heat.
After sending in an inspector, the city issued a citation, according to the report. Officials pledged to check in daily.
The situation these tenants are enduring is so dire it struck a cord with a columnist for the same newspaper that is covering the story. He donated three window air conditioners to the hardest-suffering tenants, and wrote a follow-up piece asking others in the community to do the same.
The tenants are not the only ones who stand in lose in this situation. Tenants who are forced to abandon a property over habitability typically can claim constructive eviction — the right to withhold rent for the period of time the problem persists. Additionally, tenants can make a claim for damages if it is determined that the landlord or the manager did not do everything reasonably necessary to remedy the situation. Building code citations are likely to result in fines.
The manager told reporters that fixing the AC was the “moral” thing to do. With half a summer’s worth of rents at stake and little chance of filling the vacancies, it is also the financially prudent thing to do.
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