Renters can take action when their air conditioner breaks


The first day of summer is more than a month away, but it feels like it is already here. 


The roads are radiating and the temperature has been staying above 90 degrees. 


Thankfully for Yvonne Dennis she had air conditioning today, because yesterday that wasn't the case.


"You don't know what it is like to gasp for air" Dennis said. "It was super hot yesterday. I slept most of the day. I would wake up and I have like a gnawing headache cause I was overheating."


Dennis was in bad shape when 23ABC talked to her Sunday. She contacted the 23ABC newsroom wondering what she could do to get her AC fixed. As a diabetic, with heart problems and her plastic bags filled with prescription drugs - she doesn't hold up too well in the heat. 


"You can see the air is running now that they came out to fix it," Terry Pointdexter said, as she stood next to Dennis' AC.


Pointdexter is Dennis' in-home care provider. Due to the heat, poor health and a broken AC, Dennis had to make multiple trips to the hospital.


"You (landlords) are getting their rent, and your home and family is living comfortable in this heat, I think it is only fair that the property that you have that you make sure those people are comfortable also," Pointdexter said. 


Dennis struggle doesn't sound rare to at least one Bakersfield attorney.


"Every year when the first hot weather comes, we hear about tenants that have had problems with the air condition breaking," Mark Roy, staff attorney at Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance said. 


Roy added that state law doesn't require landlords to provide a cooling system but renters do have some ground to stand on when trying to get a landlord supplied AC unit fixed. 


"Contract law requires that you get what you bargain for, which was a working air conditioning or ventilation system," Roy said. "If it doesn't work there is certainly the right to a claim of a breach of contract." 


In smaller rental spaces, with a broken AC unit, you might be able to get things fixed by claiming that your air quality is being impacted. 


"State law does say there has to be adequate ventilation," Roy said. "Many apartments that only have windows on one side of the building, if an air conditioner is not working you could make the argument that ventilation is inadequate. People can call code enforcement about that." 


Roy also mentioned that he doesn't suggest renters withhold rent or pay for repairs out of their own pockets when dealing with difficult landlords. He said tenants should first talk with their landlords or property managers. If that fails then seek the assistance of a lawyer or legal representation.


Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc. will provide legal services to low-income and elderly individuals, and has legal staff that specializes in housing disputes.  

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