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  1. #1
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    Aug 2019
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    Default Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Georgia (Fulton County)

    I have been renting a house in Atlanta, GA since June 1, 2019. It was advertised through a property management LLC and the owner of the home is the owner and sole member of the LLC. She did not disclose this fact and when I asked if she was the owner, she said that she was not, referring to the owner as "he" or "him", even though she is the only one involved. But that's not my major issue, even though she is a licensed agent and likely violated licensing law by not disclosing.

    When I moved in, she told me that she had just had the HVAC unit inspected and it was in good, working order. The house was advertised with AC and I told her several times that this was a priority as I get hot very easily. I also have in writing that she claimed the AC was working well. It was a cool week when I did the walk through so I had no reason to doubt her. However, as the temperatures climbed, it has become clear that the system is barely functioning. I've requested service three times, once for a broken thermostat that she had replaced and the other two times for a non cooling system. The second tech that visited told me that the ductwork was full of holes and I was basically cooling the crawlspace. This makes sense since cool air is coming out of the bathroom vent and that section of ductwork is newer. However, little to no air is coming out of any of the other vents in the home. I told the landlord about my conversation with the tech. She first denied that he reported an issue with the ductwork and then changed her story and said that he told her repairing or replacing ductwork would have no effect (this is contrary to what he told me). The house is very old and the HVAC system is also quite old but I know that the system works because of the cool air coming from the one, working vent...this vent is not nearly enough to cool the entire house. The filters have all been changed regularly and I was told that the system had been cleaned. I am very concerned that in the winter it will be alternately freezing inside the house due to the same issue.

    To make matters worse, there isn't a single window in the home that opens. She is actually having two of the bedroom windows replaced in a few days, after I informed her it was a fire hazard and sent her the code. In any case, it is very, very hot in the house. Before the current heat wave, the temp never dipped below 80 and usually stayed at 82 (while set at 74). Now, it is 88 degrees inside the house. My dogs are panting, I cannot sleep and getting ready to go anywhere is a nightmare. She is insisting that there is nothing wrong with the HVAC and that it's "just an old house". She has accused me of making trivial complaints (88 degrees is trivial??) and has stated that she will no longer entertain my requests for a working system because the system is "fine". Additionally, my last electric bill was $400 because the system runs constantly.

    Her responses to the AC issue include:

    1. The unit is working as intended

    2. Sending the same technician out to do basically nothing and tell me itís working as intended (My brother does HVAC and I have offered his services at a discount and she has not only refused, but informed me that she has to approve all contractors visiting the property and she does not approve anyone but her tech. Really.)

    3. Completely ignored my statement that my power bill was $400 for one person in an 1100 sf home, for a constantly running system that doesn't cool the house.

    4. Completely ignored my request that she purchase a couple of window units once the new windows go in, as opposed to doing more repairs on the HVAC

    5. I may terminate my lease (with 60 day notice) and she will refund my deposit.


    I JUST moved and cannot afford to move again, and wait 30 days to receive my significant deposit back. Additionally, she advertised the house with "new flooring throughout" and fresh paint. When I did the walk through, the paint was old and badly stained, the carpet was in some of the worst condition I have ever seen and the laminate was peeling and degrading. I mentioned this and she said she had decided to not replace flooring or paint so "take it or leave it". My lease is for two years so I made the decision to have the carpet replaced and the walls painted at my own expense. She suggested that she was doing me a favor by allowing me to do this. But now, if I move, I leave her with brand new carpet and paint that I paid for a month ago and she has refused to reimburse me if I move out.

    What are my rights here, aside from turning my life upside down by moving, and forfeiting a couple thousand dollars in improvements? Can I have my own tech visit anyway, and present her with the report? I send her a daily update with a photo of the thermostat, so there is a record of her being notified. I believe the temp inside the home is unsafe for me and my dogs but what qualifies as "unsafe" in this circumstance?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    15,664

    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    Quote Quoting kimb515
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    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Georgia (Fulton County)

    I have been renting a house in Atlanta, GA since June 1, 2019. It was advertised through a property management LLC and the owner of the home is the owner and sole member of the LLC. She did not disclose this fact and when I asked if she was the owner, she said that she was not, referring to the owner as "he" or "him", even though she is the only one involved. But that's not my major issue, even though she is a licensed agent and likely violated licensing law by not disclosing.

    When I moved in, she told me that she had just had the HVAC unit inspected and it was in good, working order. The house was advertised with AC and I told her several times that this was a priority as I get hot very easily. I also have in writing that she claimed the AC was working well. It was a cool week when I did the walk through so I had no reason to doubt her. However, as the temperatures climbed, it has become clear that the system is barely functioning. I've requested service three times, once for a broken thermostat that she had replaced and the other two times for a non cooling system. The second tech that visited told me that the ductwork was full of holes and I was basically cooling the crawlspace. This makes sense since cool air is coming out of the bathroom vent and that section of ductwork is newer. However, little to no air is coming out of any of the other vents in the home. I told the landlord about my conversation with the tech. She first denied that he reported an issue with the ductwork and then changed her story and said that he told her repairing or replacing ductwork would have no effect (this is contrary to what he told me). The house is very old and the HVAC system is also quite old but I know that the system works because of the cool air coming from the one, working vent...this vent is not nearly enough to cool the entire house. The filters have all been changed regularly and I was told that the system had been cleaned. I am very concerned that in the winter it will be alternately freezing inside the house due to the same issue.

    To make matters worse, there isn't a single window in the home that opens. She is actually having two of the bedroom windows replaced in a few days, after I informed her it was a fire hazard and sent her the code. In any case, it is very, very hot in the house. Before the current heat wave, the temp never dipped below 80 and usually stayed at 82 (while set at 74). Now, it is 88 degrees inside the house. My dogs are panting, I cannot sleep and getting ready to go anywhere is a nightmare. She is insisting that there is nothing wrong with the HVAC and that it's "just an old house". She has accused me of making trivial complaints (88 degrees is trivial??) and has stated that she will no longer entertain my requests for a working system because the system is "fine". Additionally, my last electric bill was $400 because the system runs constantly.

    Her responses to the AC issue include:

    1. The unit is working as intended

    2. Sending the same technician out to do basically nothing and tell me it’s working as intended (My brother does HVAC and I have offered his services at a discount and she has not only refused, but informed me that she has to approve all contractors visiting the property and she does not approve anyone but her tech. Really.)

    3. Completely ignored my statement that my power bill was $400 for one person in an 1100 sf home, for a constantly running system that doesn't cool the house.

    4. Completely ignored my request that she purchase a couple of window units once the new windows go in, as opposed to doing more repairs on the HVAC

    5. I may terminate my lease (with 60 day notice) and she will refund my deposit.


    I JUST moved and cannot afford to move again, and wait 30 days to receive my significant deposit back. Additionally, she advertised the house with "new flooring throughout" and fresh paint. When I did the walk through, the paint was old and badly stained, the carpet was in some of the worst condition I have ever seen and the laminate was peeling and degrading. I mentioned this and she said she had decided to not replace flooring or paint so "take it or leave it". My lease is for two years so I made the decision to have the carpet replaced and the walls painted at my own expense. She suggested that she was doing me a favor by allowing me to do this. But now, if I move, I leave her with brand new carpet and paint that I paid for a month ago and she has refused to reimburse me if I move out.

    What are my rights here, aside from turning my life upside down by moving, and forfeiting a couple thousand dollars in improvements? Can I have my own tech visit anyway, and present her with the report? I send her a daily update with a photo of the thermostat, so there is a record of her being notified. I believe the temp inside the home is unsafe for me and my dogs but what qualifies as "unsafe" in this circumstance?
    This may seem like a dumb question, but have you considered having your brother simply duct tape the holes in the ductwork? If wrapped carefully that might get you through the two years.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    2

    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    This may seem like a dumb question, but have you considered having your brother simply duct tape the holes in the ductwork? If wrapped carefully that might get you through the two years.
    I actually had thought of that but the technician who spoke to me about the issue said it has already been taped up so much that it needs to be replaced and in looking at it, I would agree. It's a mess.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2006
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    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    Quote Quoting kimb515
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    I actually had thought of that but the technician who spoke to me about the issue said it has already been taped up so much that it needs to be replaced and in looking at it, I would agree. It's a mess.
    Still though, it might be worth it. I do not think that you are going to get the landlord to do it, and you absolutely do not want to be sinking any more money into the house.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    1,013

    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    " I believe the temp inside the home is unsafe for me and my dogs but what qualifies as "unsafe" in this circumstance? "

    Well, you can call Code Enforcement who is likely to tell you that air conditioning is not a requirement in many states (including Georgia). However, if your lease includes this it's a given that it should be in "good working order".

    If Code Enforcement decides it isn't (and the unit sounds like it's working; just not cooling adequately because of these issues) then they can 1. encourage the landlord to repair the duct work or 2. condemn the house. The latter is likely to be unlikely in this situation; condemning is typically done over very serious electrical/fire, etc. issues. However, if condemned you would have to immediately vacate the place (and without financial compensation in this state for doing so). And "encouragement" is often just that...encouragement without a lot of teeth to force the landlord to do so.

    I agree that having your brother seal the holes in the ductwork seems to be a good route to go.

    Gail

    Courts in Georgia have held that when a landlord fails to respond to repair requests after a reasonable time, tenants can hire a competent repair person to perform the needed repairs. The cost must be reasonable, and the tenant may deduct the cost from the rent. It's a good idea to put your request in writing, keep all receipts and invoices, hire licensed workers if possible, and perform only needed repairs, not upgrades. For more information, see the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook, 2012, Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

    Gail

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    297

    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    Is the A/C provided by a heat pump that would be used to provide heat in the winter? I noticed in the landlord tenant handbook referenced above that the landlord is expected to keep the heat in good working order, so it may just be a matter of waiting until this winter and then dealing with it as a lack of heat issue and getting the appropriate county agency involved.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    Quote Quoting bcr229
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    Is the A/C provided by a heat pump that would be used to provide heat in the winter? I noticed in the landlord tenant handbook referenced above that the landlord is expected to keep the heat in good working order, so it may just be a matter of waiting until this winter and then dealing with it as a lack of heat issue and getting the appropriate county agency involved.
    Again though, its possible that the appropriate county agency would end up condemning the house if the landlord cannot or will not do what he needs to do. The OP has already sunk a decent amount of money into the property for paint and carpeting (which I would not have done) and will just lose out on that entirely if the house gets condemned.

  8. #8
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    297

    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    Again though, its possible that the appropriate county agency would end up condemning the house if the landlord cannot or will not do what he needs to do. The OP has already sunk a decent amount of money into the property for paint and carpeting (which I would not have done) and will just lose out on that entirely if the house gets condemned.
    At least it would get her out of the lease if the system couldn't provide heat and the house ended up condemned. If she can't run the HVAC for heat then she's stuck with using electric space heaters or kerosene heaters, neither of which should be left to run unattended while she is away at work or running errands.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    15,664

    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    Quote Quoting bcr229
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    Is the A/C provided by a heat pump that would be used to provide heat in the winter? I noticed in the landlord tenant handbook referenced above that the landlord is expected to keep the heat in good working order, so it may just be a matter of waiting until this winter and then dealing with it as a lack of heat issue and getting the appropriate county agency involved.
    The problem isn't the AC, its the ductwork. The AC works just fine, its simply cooling the crawlspace rather than the house due to the holes in the ductwork. The same will happen with the heat.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    297

    Default Re: Landlord Refuses to Adequately Repair Hvac

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    The problem isn't the AC, its the ductwork. The AC works just fine, its simply cooling the crawlspace rather than the house due to the holes in the ductwork. The same will happen with the heat.
    Right but the ductwork should be considered part of the heating system and the landlord has to maintain that. The OP just can't get the county involved to put pressure on the landlord or get the place condemned so she can move without being penalized until she can show the landlord isn't providing heat.

    For now I would get either window or portable A/C units that I could take with me versus paying someone to patch the ductwork. The A/C units I can sell when I move out, and you're absolutely right that the OP shouldn't spend another dime on this house.

    OP also mentioned that the ductwork to the bathroom was fairly new, which makes me wonder if that wasn't replaced because at some point the leaky older ductwork couldn't deliver enough heat during a cold snap to prevent the water lines from freezing.

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