January 22, 2015

The polar vortex and the freezing temperatures it continues to bring to the area mean heaters are working overtime to keep homes and people warm. With that much strain, it should come as little surprise when an older heating system breaks down and needs repair.

When you own a home, the obligation and responsibility of fixing the unit are between you and the repair company you call. For renters, though, the process is different. Tenants must call their landlord to take care of the problem for them.

Landlord Obligations

Landlords are obligated under Ohio law to do many things, but when a tenant’s heat––or air conditioning––stops working, there are specific things to keep in mind:

  • Landlords must make all repairs and do whatever is needed to keep a property in a liveable condition throughout the year.
  • Landlords are required to maintain all heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fixtures and appliances as well as many other parts of the property.
  • Landlords are required to make sure tenants have access to reasonable heat and hot water at all times, except where the property is “constructed that heat or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility connection” according to Ohio state law, 53.5321.04.
  • Before entering a property for repairs, landlords must give reasonable notice to a tenant, typically 24 hours’. In the case of lack of heat, tenants may not need or want 24 hours, but a landlord should always give some kind of notice.

Tenant Responsibilities

Tenants have their own responsibilities to the rental property, as well:

  • Tenants must use all electrical and plumbing fixtures, as well as appliances, correctly.
  • Tenants must notify their landlord when repairs are needed.
  • Tenants must allow access to the property and cannot unreasonably deny consent.

Landlords are expected to fix problems, such as a broken heater, in a timely manner. If not, a tenant may be within their rights to withhold rent. These circumstances are very specific, but it is something for landlords to remember. If a tenant puts in the call that their heater is broken, the landlord must make sure to get it fixed as soon as possible––and keep the tenant informed about what is happening and when repairs can be expected.

Renting a home is a big responsibility for both tenants and landlords. During the coldest months of the year, it’s imperative that tenants have access to heat. Using appliances correctly and reporting problems immediately will help keep heating systems in working condition for tenants. Landlords need to react immediately to maintenance issues before they become larger, more expensive problems. If everyone works together, problems with heating, cooling, and other parts of the home can be kept to a minimum and everyone will be more comfortable.

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