Landlord or Tenant: Who’s Responsible for HVAC Service and Maintenance Needs?

Who is accountable for HVAC upkeep in a rental unit?

Rental properties need regular care and service to keep their value and provide habitable living spaces. When you have the HVAC system in your home, then as a homeowner you know that handling all the associated needs is your responsibility.

Now when the same HVAC system is in a rental property, things get more confusing. For many landlords and tenants, it’s hard to understand who is responsible for what when it comes to maintaining the HVAC unit. Disputes are likely to follow.

In this article, we’ll explore the topic of HVAC maintenance and service in rental properties. Five Star Property Management shares insights on the domains of responsibility regarding the HVAC unit’s upkeep in rental units.

The Starting Point: What are the HVAC responsibilities?

HVAC is an acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Every part of this system helps to establish normal life quality in the rental property. Now we’ll see how each of these HVAC components meshes with the various responsibilities in rental units.

Air conditioning

Most state and local regulations are not demanding air conditioning in rental properties. This means that landlords won’t have to provide the system as a prerequisite of keeping the rental units habitable.

However, the important takeaway is that the landlord has to maintain the air conditioning unit once it’s already in the rental property. The property owner should ensure that the A/C unit works properly. Otherwise, negligence may result in a breach of contract.


Comfortable temperature in the living areas is an essential requirement for rental properties. Landlords have to ensure an adequate heat supply at all times. Note that the particular temperature requirements vary across the states and local municipalities.

When you own a rental property, it’s important to learn about the heating standards in your area. In some cases, there are seasonal differences in the required temperatures. Even temperature guidelines subject to time of day are not unheard of.


Ventilation is not something to be overlooked in a rental unit. When you have only heating without circulating the indoor air, you may put your tenants’ health at risk. Stagnant air is associated with mold growth, rot, and pest issues.

The main benefit of ventilation is that this system counters excess moisture in the rental property. The removal of humid conditions makes heating more efficient and cuts numerous health risks.

Landlords can install a central ventilation system that draws in the air from outdoors. As a viable alternative, it’s possible to get a dryer that comes with an exterior vent.

Tenants have their part to play in ensuring great ventilation too. They should frequently air the rooms by opening all their doors and windows. Whenever someone takes a hot bath or cooks a big dinner, it’s best to let in some fresh air again.

How should HVAC emergencies be handled?

HVAC emergencies are linked to landlords’ responsibility to ensure their rental property is livable. A common emergency involves clogged lines. The signs of this issue include damp air and a water leak from the indoor unit. The landlord has to get it promptly fixed.

Ignoring the HVAC emergency on part of the landlord could be seen as negligence. In some states and local municipalities, this situation allows the tenant to withhold rent payments.

Now we are going over the typical HVAC problems that need immediate attention in rental properties:

  • Refrigerant leak: After the refrigerant starts leaking, the overall efficiency of the unit drops significantly. The common signs of this problem are failure to cool the air, hissing refrigerant lines, and visible ice buildup.
  • Ignition issues: Ignition problems are very common. There could be many reasons for this to happen from a dirty pilot to short cycling. More often than not, ignition problems demand professional intervention.
  • Thermostat malfunction: The first step is to check whether the battery hasn’t gone empty. Should that not be the case, it’s something for a service technician to look at.
  • Leaks: Water leaks are often caused by cracked or otherwise damaged drain lines. The HVAC system’s drain lines have simply got blocked as well.
  • Blocked filters: The HVAC unit’s filters get dirty over time, ultimately leading to complete blockages. The replacement of these filters is a necessary task that has to be carried out frequently.

What is the sharing approach to upkeep responsibilities?

You can add a clause to the lease agreement that explains the rules behind the HVAC maintenance procedures. As a landlord, you can acquire full responsibility or share the upkeep duties with your renters.

  • Landlord control and maintenance: The landlord is completely responsible for the service and upkeep needs. The tenant doesn’t have to worry about any duties related to the HVAC system.
  • Landlord control and tenant maintenance: Major HVAC repairs and service should be taken care of by the landlord. However, tenants are responsible for any smaller tasks such as getting the filters changed.

The Bottom Line: HVAC Responsibilities in Rental Properties

Landlords are responsible for proper heating and basic ventilation in the rental property. Air conditioning isn’t an essential service, but once it’s in the rental unit, the landlord should maintain it as needed.

Whenever there is a serious emergency, the landlord should respond and solve the issue. Otherwise, the inaction may be defined as negligence.

The lease agreement can stipulate whether the HVAC upkeep is shared or only the landlord’s responsibility. In the case of shared duties, the tenant takes care of the minor maintenance tasks.