307 views | 5 | Last updated on Aug 21, 2020 Landlord/Tenant Law
This is a question we receive frequently as temperatures soar with the summer heat. State law does not specifically give tenants a right to be provided with air conditioning, but if yours breaks, you may have protections under your lease, local ordinances, or a section of state law requiring a landlord to fix a problem that “materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant.”
To find out whether your landlord has a legal duty to repair your AC unit, there are a few steps you could take.
If you have a written lease agreement, it may specify whether the air conditioning is a feature of the rental that the landlord agrees to maintain and keep in working order. The lease might also have a clause saying that appliance repair is the responsibility of the tenant! If you need help understanding your lease, consider using FreeLegalAnswers.org where you can upload a copy of the lease so that a volunteer attorney can review it and respond to your question.
Section 92.052 of the Texas Property Code requires a landlord to “repair or remedy a condition” that “materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant.” The law does not give specific examples of issues that materially affect the health and safety of an ordinary tenant, but if you believe that the extreme heat in your rental unit would endanger an ordinary person, this law may allow you to ask your landlord for repairs. In order to request repairs under this section:
This law would not require a landlord to provide you with air conditioning if you didn't have it before, but it might require them to fix a broken unit if the lease did not say otherwise.
Section 92.056 of the Texas Property Code has very specific procedures for how you must notify your landlord of the problem that needs to be repaired. The Austin Tenants' Council has created a page about Repair Rights with thorough instructions for requesting repairs under this law. They also offer a free Self-Help Repair Kit [PDF] with form letters and instructions that you can use to notify your landlord.
Before withholding rent, deducting repairs from your rent, or ending your lease, please be sure you follow the steps exactly or you may be liable to your landlord. Speaking with an attorney for advice is also recommended.
Please see TexasLawHelp.org's article on a tenant's right to repairs for more information. Texas Tenant Advisor also has an article on a landlord's duty to repair. The library also has more information about landlord/tenant law on our research guide to Texas landlord/tenant law.