Landlord or Tenant: Who is responsible for HVAC Service and Maintenance Needs?

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Aug. 25, 2020

Landlord or Tenant Who is responsible for HVAC Service and Maintenance Needs

Whether a landlord or tenant takes responsibility for the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems should be defined in the terms of the rental or lease agreement. HVAC repairs can be costly, and the contract language can be confusing. It is crucial to have the contract's terms for the lease made noticeably clear from the get-go.

Commercial properties and residential properties can be handled differently. The lease agreement will specify whether the property is commercial or residential and who will take responsibility for the HVAC system's issues.

Commercial Property

For a commercial lease, the regulations must be clearly defined in the contract and agreed upon in the initial negotiation stages. If the HVAC system in question was installed before the tenant moving in, the system should be inspected, and expectations laid out initially. Consider the following:

Does the system serve more than one tenant?

If the HVAC system serves multiple units in a plaza, for instance, the system belongs to the landlord. The landlord should be required to include the language in the contract for maintenance and service expectations.


The tenant can be required to maintain service on the unit and provide proof of inspection and cleanings. However, the landlord would pay for the costs of the service contract initially. The landlord should then add a portion of the cost to the entire building's monthly maintenance fee per each tenant.

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If the HVAC unit serves only one tenant, the tenant should be responsible for obtaining a maintenance plan and the cost to maintain the system. Additionally, the contract's verbiage should consider the misuse, abuse, or lack of care for the unit. If the tenant is negligent, they should take responsibility for the repairs as well. Otherwise, if the tenant is maintaining the unit and service contract, any significant repairs would be the landlord's responsibility.

Who installed the HVAC system?

If the tenant purchased and installed the unit, the responsibility belongs to the tenant. It is "their unit". Likewise, if the landlord has installed and purchased the HVAC system, the responsibility lies with the landlord.

Rental Home, Condo, or Apartment

In a rental home, condominium, or apartment, the rules are usually similar to the commercial properties. However, most of the time, these are shorter leases, and the responsibility will lie with the landlord. The landlord provides maintenance contracts, but the filters will need to be supplied and changed by the tenant.

As a renter, you agree to keep up with and maintain the property in the condition in which it was received. So, making sure the system is serviced twice a year, and the filters are replaced every month to 3 months is crucial. Keeping up with the home's various systems will help ensure a good relationship with the landlord and a favorable recommendation for future rentals.

Be sure to read the contract's fine print to know what is expected of you as a renter.

Limiting Financial Responsibility

Should any part of the HVAC unit need replacing near the end of a lease, the landlord should consider the tenant's adherence to the service contract and the time left on the lease.

If the contract's language includes any tenant responsibility and the unit has been adequately maintained, then the landlord should pro-rate the repair for the time left on the lease. That is if the contract included tenant responsibility.

If the agreement never noted tenant responsibility, then the landlord should replace the system with the future tenants in mind.

Contract Language

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The verbiage of the contract is understandably crucial to initial lease negotiations. Both parties must feel they know their portion of responsibility for the HVAC unit and the maintenance/service contract.

All contracts for commercial leases should be reviewed by an attorney to ensure the intent is evident on both sides.

DIY Air Conditioning Tips You Can Do In Just 5-10 Minutes

Not having air conditioning during the summer months can be a major headache. Here are a few tips from Veterans AC & Heat that the homeowner can do in just a few minutes.

  • Clean the air filters
  • Remember to replace air filters every month
  • Unclog drain
  • Remove debris from the unit or around the fan
  • Program thermostat to run less when you're away

In conclusion:

When leasing or renting a property, both landlord and tenant are hoping for a mutually beneficial relationship. For that to happen, both parties should be clear on all aspects of responsibility, not just the HVAC system.

There are three ways to approach financial responsibility for the HVAC system:

  • Landlord owned and maintained.
  • Tenant owned and maintained.
  • Landlord owned and tenant maintained.

The way it is stated in your lease or rental agreement will be the way it is handled. Be sure to read all paperwork thoroughly and acquire the assistance of an attorney when needed.

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