CategoriesRental Property

How Long Can a Landlord Leave You Without Heat?

how long can a landlord leave you without heat

Tennessee may have mild winters with typical temperatures around 40 degrees, but that doesn’t mean landlords can give renters the cold shoulder about heating and cooling problems. Cold indoor temperatures can make respiratory conditions worse. Landlords need to address their tenants’ needs.

How long can a landlord leave you without heat, though? If you find yourself without heat for a long time, what relief can you get? What do you do if your rental unit proves unsafe by World Health Organization standards for a long time?

You have options. Keep reading for information on necessary rental property repairs for your heating and cooling system.

How Long Can a Landlord Leave You Without Heat?

According to Tennessee law, landlord duties require the landlord to provide relief within 14 days of written notice of a deficiency in the unit. This applies to essential services, including gas, heat, electricity, and other reasonable health and safety obligations.

All landlords must meet these obligations. Accidental landlords must follow the same rules as any other landlord to remain compliant with Tennessee law.

Deliberate or Negligent Breach

To fall under this law, the landlord’s failure to address the heating issue must constitute a negligent or deliberate breach. The landlord must either choose not to address the issue or ignore it.

A landlord who fails to schedule an HVAC repair for two weeks has violated the law. A landlord who schedules it and has a technician cancel the appointment remains in the clear. If the landlord doesn’t reschedule the repair as soon as possible, though, that would then become negligent again.

Circumstances That Void This Right

If those living in a tenant dwelling, their family members, or other individuals who enter the home with the tenant’s consent cause damage to the heating equipment, this voids this provision of the law. If your uncle comes over and takes a tire iron to the heating unit during Christmas during an argument, your landlord doesn’t need to respond. You need to have that discussion with him.

That said, even if the damage to the heater falls on your shoulders, you should still contact your landlord. Someone who wants to serve as a good landlord can still help a tenant navigate the situation even if no legal liability falls on them.

The landlord will often know an HVAC technician or company who can handle the issue without further incident. While securing that repair might require action from the tenant and not the landlord, the landlord can expedite the process and get the tenant a good deal. The ideal landlord-tenant relationship benefits both parties regardless of circumstances.

Special Cases for Fire and Casualty

The circumstances under which the rental unit became unusable matter. If a fire or casualty takes out the heat and other essential services, the tenant can vacate and notify the landlord within 14 days. Under these circumstances, the lease ends.

A casualty loss includes a flood, tornado, or other major geological or weather event. While damage to the heating and cooling system may not rank at the top of your concerns after such an event, it’s worth keeping this special case in mind.

Still Without Heat?

Now that you know your landlord duties or your rights as a tenant, let’s take some time to look at the options you have for redress. If your lack of heat comes from something simple, such as a heater breaking down from age, what can you do? How do you proceed without a functioning heater for more than 14 days?

These rights only arise once the tenant submits the written notice mentioned earlier. A landlord can’t fix what a tenant doesn’t mention.

Procure Essential Services Yourself

If the landlord doesn’t handle scheduling a repair or replacement, the tenant can reach out to an HVAC technician or company and secure the repair. The law refers to this as the right to repair and deduct. All dwellings come with the implied warranty of habitability and thus the right to repair and deduct.

If you go this route, give your landlord a receipt for the repairs you made to the unit. You can then deduct the cost of the repair from 

Recover Damages

A tenant can also recover damages based on the change in value of the rental unit. This only applies if the tenant continues to occupy the unit during the period in which essential services go unprovided.

Finding the change in the fair rental value may require enlisting the aid of a real estate attorney. Tennessee law accounts for this and allows one to recover reasonable attorney’s fees from the landlord in addition to the remedy.

Substitute Housing

One can also secure substitute housing, such as an extended-stay motel, during the period in which the home remains without heat and other essential services. If the landlord continues not to provide heating relief, the tenant does not need to pay rent for the period in which the dwelling lacks heat.

Deliberate Withholding as Leverage

If a landlord delays repairs or uses the possibility of repairs as leverage in a tenancy agreement or dispute, the landlord faces severe penalties. Landlords who do so violate the implicit agreements inherent in the landlord-tenant relationship. If you find yourself in a situation like this, contact an attorney.

Keep Things Heating Up

If you find yourself asking the question, “How long can a landlord leave you without heat?” you might feel scared or worried. Even after the end of winter, nighttime temperatures can get low. Remember that your landlord has an obligation to provide these essential services and ensure that you report any deficiencies in your unit as soon as you can.

Whether you want to find a property to rent, want assistance managing a multi-unit building, or want to become the landlord of a family home, give us a call. We’ve served the Memphis area for more than two decades, managing more than 3,500 properties.

Our resources include an in-house collections team, an on-site maintenance warehouse, an accounting team, and many more. For those looking for a place to call home, we offer competitive rates in the Memphis metro area.