Housing

Air Conditioner Broken in Your Apartment? Don't Sweat It: Call 311

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Getting hot over your steamy apartment?

In the past, if tenants whose air-conditioning units weren't working called 311, the Denver services clearinghouse, they would be told that 311 didn't handle such complaints about landlords. But now, 311 will create a case that will be sent to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment for resolution, according to 311 director Laura Dunwoody.

The policy was adopted at the end of July, in the middle of a hot summer. Previously, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment didn't take action on air-conditioning problems because air-conditioning is not required in this city's rental units.

However, under the city's broken-appliance rules, the department can take action regarding a non-functioning appliance that was working when a lease began, because it falls under the Colorado warrant of habitability law, which is designed to ensure that landlords provide a safe space for renters.

The City of Denver's Tenants Rights and Resources document issued last year states that a breach of the warrant of habitability can include cases such as "a pest infestation, toxic mold, or an essential appliance does not work."  According to Denver's housing regulations, "All supplied facilities, pieces of equipment, or utilities in or about the premises of any dwelling unit shall be capable of performing their intended function and shall be constructed, installed and maintained in a manner that prevents against possible injury or harm to persons."

Under that requirement, DDPHE can follow up with landlords and issue orders for fixing air-conditioning units that were functioning at the time a lease was signed. While maintaining such systems may also be required legally when they're specifically mentioned in a lease agreement, the DDPHE does not evaluate leases or provide legal guidance.
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Tenants at the Mint Urban Infinity apartment complex filed a class-action lawsuit last fall.
Hilal Bahcetepe
While tenants across the city have been complaining about air-conditioning problems this summer, Mint Urban Infinity residents have been really hot. Many reported issues last year, when the air-conditioning units did not work all summer, and they've had more challenges this year. Last week, however, the air-conditioning repairs were finally concluded.

But other tenants who moved into once-cool apartments may not have to wait as long. Whether or not air-conditioning is guaranteed in their lease, if they signed for a space that had a functioning unit, they can now dial 311 when that unit no longer works — and the city will take it up with their landlord.

So chill!
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Catie Cheshire is a staff writer at Westword. After getting her undergraduate degree at Regis University, she went to Arizona State University for a master's degree. She missed everything about Denver -- from the less-intense sun to the food, the scenery and even the bus system. Now she's reunited with Denver and writing news for Westword.
Contact: Catie Cheshire