Should Renters Buy Air Conditioners?

In the heat of the summer months, when the weather is hot and humid, the question comes up and you might wonder whether you should buy an air conditioner. There is no easy answer to that question, particularly when you rent, rather than own your home.

There are always many issues to consider before buying appliances. When the home does not technically belong to you, however, some of the considerations are legal in regard to your right to modify the rental unit.

Speak to your Landlord

Always begin by speaking directly to your landlord or manager. If you are in a typical landlord and tenant contract, you are likely prohibited from making major changes to the living quarters. For instance, in most cases, you can’t just decide on your own to bore a hole through the wall to accommodate an air conditioner. Nor can you remove windows or window screens.

Legal Considerations

Besides the legal issue of changing the structure of the building, is the legal issue of safety and financial responsibility. Even if the air conditioner you purchase does not require structural changes, it may malfunction. If the air conditioner leaks and subsequently ruins a wall or floor, if the unit falls on someone or does other damage, a question of legal liability arises.

It’s unlikely that a landlord or management group will take on the added financial responsibility for an air conditioning unit that was added on after the rental contract agreement was signed.

Type of Air Conditioning Unit

Before approaching your landlord or management group, consider the type of air conditioning unit you are looking at. The basic types of units are a window unit, a through-the-wall unit, a centralized unit, a split unit and a portable floor unit. There are pros and cons to each type, including the expense.

Central Air Conditioning

In a rental home it is best not to invest the money in a central air conditioning unit. This type of unit requires a major professional installation and will have to stay put when you move out. The only time central air is recommended is when it is your landlord’s idea and they take on the expense.

Wall and Window Air Conditioning Units

Of these types of units, the window option is best for rental homes and apartments. Most landlords are more apt to agree to this type of air conditioning and you can offer to sign a waiver of responsibility for them. You can find these units at hardware and home shopping stores for a reasonable price, particularly when you purchase them off season.

Portable Air Conditioning Units

This type of unit is the most practical for renters to buy. A portable air conditioner does not require structural changes of any kind, only an opening for the air hose. It’s also convenient to move because of the wheels. You will pay a slightly higher price for these units but it is worth the comfort and hassle. 

No matter what you decide, it is best to contact your landlord. They may even be willing to install something for you.