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Who’s Responsible for Furnace Repairs: Landlord or Tenant?

HVAC maintenance and repair can be an area of contention when it comes to landlords and tenants. What happens if the air conditioner or furnace breaks down? Who needs to pay for regular maintenance like inspections and filter replacement? Here’s what you should know as a landlord or tenant in Nevada.

Who Pays for Furnace Repairs and Maintenance?
Under Nevada landlord-tenant law, the landlord is required to repair and maintain all essential services for a rental unit, including heating, cooling, running water, hot water, and electricity. This means it’s the landlord’s responsibility to respond to any notices you give that the furnace needs to be fixed or your heat is out. The landlord is also responsible for maintaining the system to ensure it’s in good working order.

Your lease may give you some responsibility, though. Some leases require that tenants perform basic maintenance and upkeep on the property. With the HVAC system, this may include simple steps like replacing the air filter as needed.

If you cause damage to the furnace as a tenant, however, the landlord is not responsible for the furnace repairs; you are. Nevada law makes it the tenant’s responsibility to fix any damage caused by neglect or intentional actions.

Implied Warranty of Habitability
Nevada law is very clear as to the responsibilities of a landlord. Landlords are required to provide habitable housing. If you advertise a property for rent, you must keep the premises livable under a legal concept known as an implied warranty of habitability. This means that offering the property for rent comes with an unstated guarantee that the unit is livable.

An issue is only considered to make a rental property uninhabitable if it affects:
— Running water
— Heat. Nevada housing code does not allow a landlord to simply supply space heaters when a furnace stops working. There must be a permanent heat source such as a furnace, wall heaters, or a baseboard heater.
— Air conditioning. In many states, air conditioning is not legally required, but it is in hot climates like Nevada. Air conditioning is considered an essential under Nevada law which means landlords must fix a malfunctioning AC system.
— Hot water
— Gas
— Electricity
— Functioning door lock
— Structural integrity
— Air pollution, mold, or lead
— Serious disrepair

These issues must be fixed within 48 hours of being reported to the landlord.

What to Do if Your Heat Goes Out
When a rental unit becomes uninhabitable for any reason, including the landlord failing to make important furnace repairs, you have options as a tenant. There are two primary options in Nevada:
— Repair and deduct. This involves paying to have a serious defect fixed to make the unit habitable and deducting your expenses from your rent.
— Withhold rent. You can also withhold rent until repairs are made to the unit. You can only withhold rent if you were current on rent payments before giving your landlord notice.

To legally use either remedy, you must make sure the problem is serious enough to justify reducing your rent or withholding rent. The list above covers items that are considered essential to make the property habitable. You must also notify the landlord so they have a chance to fix the problem. In most cases, the landlord must be given at least 48 hours to fix or make progress on repairing the issue. Always give your landlord written notice of a problem like necessary furnace repairs to make sure you’re protected under Nevada law.

After contacting your landlord and giving written notice of the problem, you can take action yourself after a few days. In Nevada, a landlord cannot retaliate against you for exercising your legal right to withhold rent or repair and deduct, as long as you follow the rules. This means the landlord cannot raise your rent out of spite, evict you, or take other negative actions against you, even if you file a habitability complaint with the state.

If your landlord attempts to sue you and you believe it’s because you requested furnace repairs or withheld rent, you can file an answer with the court to protect your rights. Make sure you keep your original written notice to the landlord about the repairs and any receipts if you paid for repairs yourself.

If you aren’t sure what to do as a renter, the Southern Nevada Health District can help you document the loss of an essential service like heating or cooling. You can reach their hotline at 702-759-0697

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