It happened again. Last week a 49 year old woman, Priscilla Games, died in her 113 degree Tempe apartment with broken air conditioning. Tempe Code Enforcement inspectors came out four times, starting on July 22, and sent “notices” to the landlord about the condition. According to the Arizona Republic, those notices could become “citations” if the landlord wasn’t making “progress” on the issue. But apparently Code Enforcement determined this landlord was making progress, and didn’t do anything. Priscilla died on August 4th.
To reiterate: the landlord is required to provide air conditioning under A.R.S. § 33-1364. If they fail to do so, you can give reasonable notice to the landlord and then take one of the following remedies:
- Procure reasonable amounts of air conditioning during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance. Unless the air conditioning is off because the landlord failed to pay the utility bill, in which case you can simply pay it yourself out of your rent, we suggest you rent a portable air conditioner; that’s the least expensive way to go. There’s no limit on the amount you can spend, but again, it needs to be “reasonable.”
- Recover damages based on the reduced value of the dwelling unit.
- Procure substitute housing, in which case you’re excused from paying rent during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance. If you rent a motel room you can recover up to 125% of a day’s rent if the cost of the motel room exceeds the daily rent.
The law doesn’t specify what “reasonable notice” means but we consider it to be 24 hours. That starts when the landlord receives the notice. Make sure you have a receipt from the landlord or send it Priority (overnight) Mail, Signature Requirement Waived so the landlord can’t duck service and you get a tracking number from the Post Office proving that the notice was served.
It is outrageous that landlords should simply be given a slap on the wrist, or no slap at all if they’re “making progress,” when they don’t provide air conditioning. If a tenant dies, criminal homicide charges should be filed against them.
If you’re not getting proper air conditioning, or are having other problems with your landlord, call us. We are the only activist tenants’ rights group in the state. We will help you organize a tenant association in your building, take an individual action or legally terminate your lease as the situation warrants.