What are the rules about air conditioners?

3. Learn the rules about extra rent for added services

Your landlord might tell you that you have to pay an extra fee to use an air conditioner. The law doesn't allow extra fees for that, but it does allow you and your landlord to agree on a rent increase if you're getting a new service or facility. Extra electricity to run an air conditioner is considered a new service. If your landlord provides the air conditioner, that would be a new facility.

An agreement to raise your rent for those things has to follow certain rules. Here are the most important things to know:

Cost:

The rent increase can't be more than the landlord's actual cost. If the cost can't be determined, the increase must be a “reasonable” amount.

Start date:

The increase, and the new service or facility, can start on any date you and your landlord agree on. The usual rules about 90 days' and waiting 12 months between rent increases don't apply to this kind of agreement.

End date:

The law doesn't give you a way to end this agreement and go back to your previous rent unless the landlord agrees to end it. This can be a problem with air conditioning because you'll probably want it for only part of the year.

If you're not completely sure your landlord will later agree to remove the added rent when you stop using the air conditioner, you should make sure your agreement has an end date and is in writing.

Another way to deal with this problem is to spread the additional cost over 12 months. For example, if you and your landlord agree that an air conditioner will add $30 a month to the landlord's electric bill, and you will use it for 4 months each year, you could spread the total cost of $120 over the full year by increasing the rent by $10 a month.

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