AC cleaning- tenant or landlord expense?

5 Replies

Hello BP.

For those landlords who have AC units in their rental properties, do you cover any cleaning/servicing expenses or hold the tenant responsible? If the latter, how do you approach it - included in lease, separate invoice/bill, etc.

Any input or thoughts it's greatly appreciated.


Hi John,

My property manager in the DFW area enlisted a company to replace the air filters on AC units at a regular interval in order to preserve the life of the systems. This service is billed as a subscription, and all new tenants assume the cost of this subscription. I think this is reasonable, because the tenants aren't burdened with the responsibility of changing the filters and I get peace of mind knowing that it's getting done. As far as other more detailed cleaning and servicing, the landlord should pay IMO.

Cleaning the evaporator coil is not something I would want a tenant to do. Keeping the outside condenser unit clean is also something I prefer to do especially when the coils get coated with dust, cotton wood & sooty mold from old trees. 

Here's an evap. coil after  six months with heavy smoking tenants (including filter changes for what that's worth). But they have been with us 15 years.

Hi @John T. , it's your choice.  Personally, I handle the AC cleaning coordination for our semi-annual cleanings.  If you expect the tenant to pay and coordinate, it'll probably never happen and you risk a hefty replacement cost one day.

There are elements of property management one can slack off on and little repercussions.  I would advise HVAC not being one of those 'slack off' items.

Unit Replacement:  My last unit cost $6,700 in Fall 2018.  Since I don't pay the electric bills, this was the cheapest model.  I did replace my primary home with a higher SEER in 2013 which cost $6,400.  Bigger unit too.  So HVAC units are getting more expensive; whether due to labor or material costs not sure.

Life Span:  From my understanding, your HVAC will last about 6-8 years if you let it be.  That breaks down to $850-1,100 annually.  If you have proper Preventative Maintenance that unit can last 12-18 years.  That's $375-560 annually, plus the additional $100 per unit for the cleanings.  You're still saving money for the long run.

Filters:  These little guys make a world of a difference for the life span of your unit.  A dirty filter causes the HVAC to run harder to suck more air in the return, which translates to more energy.  More energy = higher electric bills.  In Arizona, changing out your filters every 3-4 weeks could save your tenant $15-30 on their bill.  That's my pitch to the tenants.

Who should change filters?:  A lot of landlords/PM's use the opportunity to change filters as a way to see the inside of the property and its conditions.  You can leave it to the tenants if you trust them, although my experience has been mixed.  

One home with a dog hadn't changed their filters during the winter; the unit worked harder and actually had moisture in the return because of the temperature differences.  It was actually leaking from the return vent.  That moisture started to rust the heating pack which cannot be undone and while it's a relatively simple fix, it requires the entire unit to be removed from the roof.  Cranes aren't cheap.  Unfortunately I now face a HVAC that is a time bomb until it rusts out and I have to replace it entirely.  Lesson learned and now I am more assertive about changing out the filters routinely.

We generally do a service call every 1-2 years on all units, so they get cleaned then. If we find a unit that our HVAC tech lets us know is dirty because of clogged filters (the unit will pull air from anywhere it can get it) the tenant gets charged for that service call, and we let them know that in the lease and our info sheet.