NH Housing Advocate: Tenants have the right to install air conditioning
There are three windows in Emily Negron’s flat in Manchester, and she keeps them all open – hoping the wind will help bring the temperature down. However, the place is humid and hot.
Negron knew there was no air conditioning when she moved in two months ago, but she took the apartment anyway because it suited her budget. To cope with the heat of this summer, she drinks extra water and cools off by opening the door of her refrigerator. She also has a fan.
But with this week’s heat wave, Negron fears that won’t be enough, especially at night. She hopes to talk to her landlord soon about installing an air conditioner or doing something else to cool things down.
“It’s too hot here,” she said.
Read more: How to stay safe during the latest heat wave in NH
from New Hampshire statewide housing standards require homeowners to provide adequate heat, but this law is silent on air conditioning. Despite everything, a housing rights defender with 603 Legal Aid said that tenants who do not have air conditioning are entitled to put a unit there.
Steve McGilvary, a housing paralegal at 603 Legal Aid, said tenants are protected by state law that guarantees a “right to quiet enjoyment.” Under this provision, he said, tenants are allowed to install an air conditioning unit in their unit if necessary to mitigate high temperatures.
“If the landlord refuses, he violates the right of the tenant,” he said.
If a tenant encounters resistance from their landlord, McGilvary said he can file a 540-a petition in their local district court and have a judge weigh in. In court, he said, landlords can be fined up to $1,000 a day if found guilty of breaking the law.
“It would ultimately be up to the judge to decide whether the tenant was entitled to this particular remedy to bring down the temperature,” he said.
In some cases, McGilvary said, landlords prohibit tenants from installing air conditioning units in their homes. He said many tenants don’t know it’s illegal.
If a tenant is dealing with an uncomfortably hot apartment, McGilvary said they should try to speak to their landlord first before pursuing further legal remedies.
“A lot of tenants are afraid of being evicted if they speak out, but sometimes all they have to do is communicate with [their landlord],” he said. “It’s not just a matter of comfort, it could be a matter of life and death.”