HVAC dilemma - AC is out and so is my guy

29 Replies

Hello all,

I have a rental property at which the tenant just told me the AC is no longer working. The problem is the guy who installed the condenser and warranted it and who would give me the best price is out of town on vacation until Tuesday.  Cost-wise and to avoid voiding any warranty I would like to have the original guy take care of it, but it's freakin hot these days as well (Atlanta).  What would you all suggest?  My HVAC guy suggested maybe finding a separate portable unit - maybe window unit or fan - that can suffice until next week?  Would that be reasonable?

Thanks. 

Nick

Sounds like you just need to get it fixed and see if you can do anything with the warranty later on. 

You'd want to check your lease/local laws to find out what's deemed as an emergency. It's possible that you wind up in some legal hot water if you don't remedy it within a certain time frame. 


Now a lawyer.

Updated almost 2 years ago

Changing now to not

@Nick Brubaker

Window units are great to buy time.  If you're doing rentals at scale prepare to own a few.  They give you that few weeks you need to get the best deal and move forward on the work on your terms.  A lot of AC guys/companies hate them because they love bidding projects when folks under over a barrel.

Depending on the size of your rental property and ability to set expectations, usually one or two window units suffice.

Easy to install; shouldn't take more than an hour to install a couple.  Need to verify window opening sizes, and of course, make sure they're installed sloping away from the house, otherwise you'll get condensation flowing back towards your window, and into the house.

If you a fixated on "your guy"..... you fully trust their ability, honesty and price..... and don't want to risk using someone else, then explain that to the tenant....be honest and up front about it with them....... and provide several portable units.
When it comes to contractors, I 100% understand not rolling the dice on an unknown...... be honest with the tenant about why you are doing what you are doing and provide a reasonable temp fix with the portables......

A warranty is only as good as the company backing it. Your guy might be great but you now MIGHT have a warranty issue and he is not available to back it. Ask him if he has a connection in his trade that he would trust to make the repairs on his behalf, or at least diagnose the issue. Is there any recourse through the manufacture? Can you say for sure that the failure is due to the part of the system your guy is backing? It's 95* where I am at right now and if my AC went out, I would expect action immediately. If I was renting, I would not care about my landlord saving a few bucks while my wife and kids sweat it out. 

Chances are whatever part went out will have a few days lead time so you may want to figure out temp AC anyways. Window units might work if security is not a concern. Stand alone may be better. Might try to figure out what your tenants expectations are. Maybe they are cool with fans and sweating it out for a week if you offer them $100 bucks. If they want to be put up at a 5 start hotel until the unit is fixed temp AC units probably wont work. 

Get it fixed. If he says its not warrantied anymore point back to the fact that he didnt come out to fix it when it broke.

It's very uncomfortable with the high temps the Atlanta area is having now but other HVAC companies are perhaps buried too. I'd probably try to get "someone" out there to take a look. Maybe just needs a reset button pushed or breaker reset. I've been in a similar situation where my regular guy was not available. Often times small HVAC companies will work with other small companies and you could try getting hold of your guy to see if he can recommend someone.

By the way, HEAT is required to be supplied by the landlord but not AC. So you're not going to be in any legal trouble.

Window units and you give them some money for the increased electrical bill in the interim. My plumbing/HVAC company of choice is run by one of my mentors. He's one of the very few people I know I can trust absolutely in this business.

I agree with the idea of grabbing a window unit or two and heading over there.  While you're there, it might be worthwhile to look the system over yourself; sometimes it's something you can fix for free or for relatively cheap.  Things I have seen happen:

The disconnect (the box on the outside of the house that the 240 V for the A/C is connected to) had fuses in it.  One of them blew.  Fix: replace the fuses (and get a spare pair, too).

Somebody weed-whacked the low-voltage wire to the outside unit.  Temporary fix: wire nuts and electrical tape.  Long-term fix: run a new piece of low-voltage wire from the furnace to the outside unit.

Somebody plugged something in, in the basement, that popped a breaker.  That breaker also fed the furnace.  Fix: Reset the breaker.

Thermostat quit working; the keypad locked up and it wouldn't tell the system to turn on.  Fix: New $35 thermostat from the hardware store.

Everything was running, but the condenser fins on the outside unit were full of dirt, pollen, cottonwood seeds, etc, so the system was blowing warm air.  Fix: Shut off system, power off outside unit at disconnect, hose out condenser (gently) with garden hose and nozzle, let it dry out for a couple of hours, reconnect power outside, turn system on.

I haven't seen this one myself, but it's possible: most furnaces since the late 80s or early 90s have an interlock switch on the blower compartment door; if you take the door off (like to change the filter), it shuts off all the power to the furnace, which also makes the A/C not work.  If you don't get the door reinstalled correctly, it might not close this switch.  Maybe the door came off for some reason (tenant wanted to change a filter; furnace is in closet and something in the closet fell on the door; furnace is in basement/garage and tenant's kid bounced a ball off of the door) and it hasn't been reinstalled correctly.

@Matt R.

A few years ago we were renters with a/c that went out on July 4th weekend. No one in our small town for repairs. Landlord brought us a portable a/c. It wasn’t the greatest option for 100 degree weather and we all slept in the family room that weekend, but I felt like it was acceptable due to the fact that he did put effort into finding HVAC technician with no luck. I agree that you should explain to tenants that technician is out of town and set them up as comfortably as you can.

@Nick Brubaker - I'd talk to your tenant is see if you can work anything out (window units).  Their satisfaction is priority #1, so I'd do whatever it takes to make them happy, but I'd at least try and see if they'd be cool with using window units until your guy is back from vacation

Lots of times it is the capacitor blows from being hot, fix it you are taking on the the liability of keeping items fixed like that.

Having said that you need to train the renters or yourself to do basic up keep on the unit.

Change the filter on a regular basis depends how often from the type of filter or how dirty they live

Hose the out-side unit down couple times a summer maybe more if it gets dirty quick.

This will make the compressor last longer $$$$$$!

What brand is the unit?  Most of the big brands any certified installer can do the warranty work on them and you don't have to wait for your guy.

Call a couple different companies and ask them if they service the brand of system you have.

@Nick Brubaker get it fixed. I just had new units installed by a guy and one kept needing small repairs. He kept dragging his feet on meetings and just topping it off with more refrigerant. It turns out it has 3 leaks and was poorly installed. The money is well spent knowing its properly installed now.

@Nick Brubaker Hey Nick, great responses below. However, I seldom go by what my tenants are telling me because they are not experts ("the AC not working" doesn't mean a huge expense for you). 

So, get another AC guy there from Thumbtack or similar. You may be surprised that the AC is probably out of freon (easy fix). Now, when compared to buying new window units you may be saving some CapEx here.

Good luck and keep us updated 👍

I

Originally posted by @Tim Johnson :

What brand is the unit?  Most of the big brands any certified installer can do the warranty work on them and you don't have to wait for your guy.

Call a couple different companies and ask them if they service the brand of system you have.

It's a Goodman.  I will try to contact them or a service provider who does the warranty work. 

 

Thank you all for the advice.  I talked to the tenant and explained the situation.  I said it would be preferable to me to have the guy who installed it and warranted it make the repair as it will be much cheaper and not void the warranty.  I offered the choice of me having a different service provider repair it now or $100 of his next month's rent if he can wait until next week.  He is willing to wait, saying he will stay at his parents' place or girlfriend's place if it gets too bad.  He also works a lot.  

In addition I'm going to reach out to the manufacturer now to see if I can find someone to repair it sooner under that warranty.