• Legal Update: Reasonable Cooling Standards

    August 13, 2015
  • Every year as the weather starts to heat up, HVAC units start to fail. As temperatures soar higher and higher, HVAC repair requests gain an increased sense of urgency. Some HVAC units simply stop working and require replacement parts to restore their function. Other times, an HVAC unit is functioning but perhaps not at peak efficiency. Invariably a situation like this sparks a conversation regarding what constitutes a minimum cooling temperature. Paul Henderson from the Law Offices of Scott Clark recently shared the following article. 


    Reasonable Cooling Standards in Maricopa County
    Paul A. Henderson, Esq.  | Law Offices of Scott M. Clark, P.C.
    What was the biggest factor that contributed to the growth of Arizona after World War II?  It wasn't America's superpower status or the Cold War - it was a simple invention that truly changed the nature of your home:  the air conditioning unit.

    That same air conditioning unit plays a large role in housing in Maricopa County, especially during seasons not optimistically described as "winter."  The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires you, the landlord, to supply "reasonable heat and reasonable air-conditioning or cooling where such units are installed and offered."  The problem with A.R.S. § 33-1324(A)(6) is that "reasonable air-conditioning" is not defined, leaving management and property owners at risk when trying to determine what constitutes "reasonable."

    Some Valley cities have taken the guesswork out of this transaction now.  Other cities have left it at the "reasonable" standard.  Scottsdale was one of the first municipalities to establish a specific number, which frequently caused it to be cited by members of the residential rental industry (and the justice courts) as the go-to standard.  "The West's Most Western Town" set the minimum cooling temperature at 85°F (§ 31-32 602.2.2).  However, other cities have now introduced their own policies.  Phoenix is the newest city that has implemented a temperature standard.  The temperature adopted by the Phoenix City Council is a lower one than Scottsdale; the requirement in Arizona's largest city is for cooling in the residence to reach 82°F or lower (§ 39-5(B)(1)(b)).  Tempe embraced the same standard as Phoenix:  82°F (§ 21-34(c)) is the requirement there.

    Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, and Surprise do not set temperature standards.  Tucson, Arizona's second largest city and the only one in the top ten most populous Arizona cities not in Maricopa County, also does not set a temperature threshold.  Without a standard, you are left facing the guessing game of what constitutes reasonable temperatures.  In these circumstances, Phoenix's 82°F standard may very well be the de facto policy for these cities, too.

    Now, what does this mean for you?  While three of the cities have set specific temperature requirements, this does not mean that you should only shoot for these limits.  85°F is not all that optimal of a temperature in post-WWII Arizona.  Air conditioning systems should be designed to appropriately cool the square footage of the residence.  A unit that is too small will not produce appropriate cooling.  Similarly, make sure that your air conditioning units are in good repair and free from damage; a system that is not properly maintained will work less efficiently, which will lead to higher electricity bills.  If you don't provide appropriate cooling, you may face complaints from your residents - and potential legal headaches.