Inheriting A Tenant That Doesn't Run the Air Conditioner

16 Replies

I am currently purchasing a duplex and inheriting a tenant who doesn't run the air conditioner because "it is a lot cheaper that way."  I learned this the same time the seller did during my inspection of the unit as they are fairly new tenants and summer just began.  

We went in and the seller asked his tenant if there was something he needed to know about and he said know he just prefers to run fans instead of central AC.  The AC does work and there are no problems with it, but my question is wanting to know if this is bad for either the HVAC system itself or for the building.  We are in south Louisiana and it humid and HOT down here in the summer.  I can't see how the guy can live like this much less subject his wife/girlfriend and two young children to it.  They all had beads of sweat on their faces and looked miserable.  Would not running air conditioning setup conditions for moisture and mold to develop in the unit during the heat of the summer?  Any other red flags this sends up for anyone?

I am in Baton Rouge, LA to be more specific.

Just make sure to crank it on once every 90 days or so but I can't see anything wrong with this setup with regards to the home. 

$10 says in july she can't resist using it haha

I would be more worried that she is refraining to use the system to save money. Which in itself isn't a problem, but if she is so strapped she can't run the AC then something else is going to occur and she won't be able to afford the rent. 

This was the boyfriend or husband that told me why they don't run it. His wife is a manager at Costco and he is currently unemployed so she makes all the money. Seller required 3x income at the beginning of the lease so we shall see what happens. We have a very landlord friendly eviction process here so if they can't pay they have to go!

I have run into this in the past in central Florida and it is not good for the houses wood work the excessive moisture causes doors etc to delaminate. It also makes for a very dirty environment the windows are always open and fan always running stirring up dirt. It can also cause mold because it takes forever for bathrooms to dry.

Brandon,

If the is a musty smell or any indication of excess humidity that could be a big problem for you resulting in mold.

I've encountered similar situations, but I doubt that our weather here in Virginia is as humid as yours.  If the tenant won't run the air conditioner and you have a problem, you'll need to take some action to protect the building.

We have installed 8 of these built-in dehumidifiers:

http://www.innovativedehumidifiers.com/

The tenant doesn't control them, and can't turn them off.  They have been a good solution here.  (I have no affiliation with the company - just a satisfied customer).

Matt

We're only 200 miles from you, and I've never seen a problem with any of the houses we own when the air conditioner is not running. We have a couple of empty units at the moment, and there are zero issues with mold and such like.

But as someone else said - bet it will be turned on in July. Frankly, I wouldn't give odds that it wasn't turned on later that day as the heat will be unbearable. I doubt the wife got in from work and said "boy honey, it's sure glad to get out of that airconditioned store and come home to a house that's 95F".

Bathrooms need fans though. Ideally ones that turn on automatically with the light switch as that is a source of mildew over time (I refuse to call it mold).

BTW, check your ordinances about screened windows. If the tenant keeps windows open this will be important. I know they changed the law in FL in the last 12 months that all windows have to be screened now, $1500 fine if not.

The world ran without air conditioning not long ago.  I wouldn't worry about it.  Sounds like your tenants have their priorities straight - pay the rent first :-)

When the BF gets a job, they'll probably start using it.

We had the opposite problem in the units I managed in Silicon Valley.  Once in a while we'd get a techie from India, and they'd like to close up the units and boil water all day to increase the humidity in the units LOL.  The owner I worked for said in one of his large units in another town (my building mainly just had small studios), the Indian family he had in there got it so humid, that the floor boards expanded and the nails started popping up.  This is when the tenant finally called him - they were cutting their feet on the nails that were popping up.  He had to completely tear up the flooring and make them promise to quit boiling water LOL.

But, with your tenant with the windows open and the fans going, it should be fine.  Shouldn't be as bad as boiling a huge pot of water all day long with the windows closed. :-)

This kind of attitude reminds me of that Extreme Cheapskates show.  I live in NOLA and I KNOW how miserable it is without A/C.  I'd live on ramen noodles before I'd enact an "only fans, no A/C ever" rule.  And, in the grand scheme of things, you aren't even talking about that much money.  Depending on the system/size of house, maybe an extra $100-$200/month.  Heck, even if you have Central in that house...they could buy a small used window unit for $50 and it would only raise their electricity bill by probably less than $40/month.  Just crazy.

At any rate, my biggest concern for the property would be it possibly causing a mildew issue.  But I'm not sure if it would or not.  It certainly seems like houses in our area that have been unoccupied for a long time are very mildewy smelling.  

The world ran without air-conditioning  not that long ago. Even when it gets humid here , which it does, but not like you,  I don't see damage due to humidity unless they fail to ventilate a bathroom.  Unless it actually is causing damage leave it alone.  People conserve where they can stand it. They can stand it without AC at least for now.  It may just be an excuse for this is what we can afford. If it is central air does it have an option for whole house fan, if so I would let them know that.  In any case 100-200 a month is a lot to some people especially with one out of work.  Better this then the AC full blast and no rent paid....

Originally posted by @Colleen F. :

The world ran without air-conditioning  not that long ago. Even when it gets humid here , which it does, but not like you,  I don't see damage due to humidity unless they fail to ventilate a bathroom.  Unless it actually is causing damage leave it alone.  People conserve where they can stand it. They can stand it without AC at least for now.  It may just be an excuse for this is what we can afford. If it is central air does it have an option for whole house fan, if so I would let them know that.  In any case 100-200 a month is a lot to some people especially with one out of work.  Better this then the AC full blast and no rent paid....

 Very very true, I lament that my post might have come of sounding snobby.  That is a tremendous amount of money for many people, including myself!  Though, it is only for a few months a year, not the entire year.  What I more meant was, compared to the abject misery of living in Southeast LA without a/c, I would literally only eat one 25 cent ramen meal a day if it meant I could afford a/c.

It's really that bad.  I spent a week without a/c in August during Hurricane Isaac a few years ago.  I did have fans going using my car battery as a power source and I even have a house with raised ceilings...built before a/c existed...and the heat was still unrelenting.  You start to feel sick because it is so hot, you can't sleep because it is so hot.

This time of year wouldn't be nearly as bad, but still. 

I've never heard of a problem arising with a house because of not running air conditioning.  Many houses were built before the days of AC and they are still around and doing fine.  

I sometimes hold out on running the AC.  Not to save money, but just because sometimes it feels better to feel the heat.

I say it's the tenant's business whether they run the AC or not.  It's none of the landlord's business.  Just my 2 cents.

@Jennifer T. I would have never thought, the things that make people feel at home..

@Sue K. .  I was also curious about this issue.  And I agree, I might think its nuts to go without a/c, but as long as it isn't going to cause damage, tenants can certainly do what they want to control their energy costs.  As so well pointed out in Sue's post, the world would be a much more boring place if we were all the same!

I would add that in addition to turning it on periodically to have it serviced annually. But really if it's not running it should never be an issue.

Medium erm logoMichael Roy MBA, EastRoy Management, LLC

For an overdue update to this post:

@Alexander Felice spot on. 

By mid June the AC was cranking out cold air!  I know this because as soon as they began using it I got a call to come check out some issues with it.  The condensate drain line had a break in it and was leaking into the kitchen through the return air vent coming from the attic.  Lucky location for it to happen for sure because it didn't do any damage.  I also noticed at this time that the duct to their master bedroom was not attached and this duct was just cooling the attic space!  So now they actually have AC in their bedroom too.

The end of the story is although they are from California where they may not have needed an air conditioner, they soon realized they weren't tough enough to bear the south Louisiana heat all summer just to save $40/month on the electric bill.  I don't know there are too many people who would endure that misery.

See you at the top!

Brandon

I have a specific addendum in my Florida leases regarding using "reasonable efforts to the dwelling unit in such a condition as to prevent the the accumulation of moisture and the growth of mold."  Additionally it says in the addendum that they most notify me if they discover any evidence of mold.

Unless they are causing damage to the dwelling or there is mold presence that can be attributed to leaving the windows open then you may have little recourse.  I would be more worried about them leaving the windows open when not home and it rains into the dwelling.  

Definitely make air conditioning part of the lease. Before the spread of ACs in the South, people didn't take showers multiple times per day or had their laundry facility in the apartment. If nobody lives in it, you might be fine. But as soon as you add people with their water related activities, the humidity spikes and mildew growth is a matter of time.

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