Is Your Landlord Required to Fix Your A/C?

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By Emily Blackshire-Giel and Donate James

It is no secret that it can get HOT in South Carolina’s summers. But who is responsible for making sure a unit has air conditioning? Under South Carolina law, it depends!

Air conditioner in need of repair.

There are four essential services that landlords must provide access to renters in SC – heat, running water, hot water, and electricity. Despite how hot our summers get, this list does not include air conditioning. That is because air conditioning is considered an appliance. If a landlord provides an appliance to a tenant, the landlord must make sure it is working and not a hazard to their renters.

There are a few ways to determine who is responsible for what when it comes to air conditioning units:

  1. Is the heat provided through a central Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) unit? If so, the landlord is probably responsible for its upkeep and, therefore, also responsible for ensuring the air conditioning is in working condition throughout the duration of the lease unless they state otherwise.
  2. Does the lease specify certain responsibilities for the tenant? Sometimes leases say that the tenant is responsible for changing air filters or keeping the air conditioning unit clean. Even if so, the landlord is responsible for making sure that the air conditioning unit is in working condition at the throughout the duration of the lease unless stated otherwise. 
  3. Did the tenant bring in the air conditioning unit themselves? If the tenant brought in their own window unit or portable air conditioner, the tenant is fully responsible for its upkeep and maintenance.

If a landlord has an air conditioning unit that is not in working condition, a tenant may send them a 14 Day Letter to put them on notice that the AC is not working and clearly ask that the landlord fix it. In that letter, the tenant should clearly state what needs to be fixed and that the landlord has 14 days to begin repairs. If a landlord does not take reasonable steps to begin repairs of the air conditioning unit within fourteen days, the tenant may file against their landlord in magistrate court after the fourteen-day notice period has passed.

To file for an injunction (an action asking the judge to order that the landlord make repairs) or to terminate their lease, a tenant usually has to pay $80. However, they should take up questions of process and cost with their local magistrate court first. Though it is possible for tenants to represent themselves at magistrate court, South Carolina Appleseed always recommends speaking to an attorney beforehand when possible.

Even though air conditioning isn’t considered an “essential” service under South Carolina law, a tenant’s living situation must be fit and habitable. If tenants don’t believe their unit is fit and habitable, due to the air conditioning’s malfunction or other issues, South Carolina Appleseed recommends that tenants consult an attorney.

To learn more about Landlord-Tenant law, including the duties of landlords and tenants during a lease agreement, check our South Carolina Appleseed’s Landlord-Tenant brochure and additional resources through our SC Tenant Voices page.