Albuquerque renters face extreme heat without working AC

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If your swamp cooler or air conditioner is working right now – count yourself lucky.

“It’s getting ridiculous at this point, and people are suffering,” said one apartment renter who’s been without A/C for nearly 3 months. “It’s terrible. It’s hot. We’re mostly just sitting in front of fans all day, putting towels in the freezer to drape over ourselves like blankets to stay cool.”

She lives at an apartment complex near I-25 and San Mateo which advertises units that come with A/C. She estimates her A/C unit has only worked about 2 weeks since moving in in early April. Despite multiple attempts to get it fixed and the extreme heat, she says nothing has changed.

Earlier this week, she says her thermostat showed it was 96° inside her apartment.

“It states in our lease that we should have AC, so it makes no sense why we don’t,” she said.

It’s a similar story for a mom of 3 who lives in an apartment complex near Sawmill Market.

“It’s pretty much no difference outside as it is in the house,” she said. “We’re just trying to stay hydrated, trying to make sure that you know, we’re not passing out from heat exhaustion.”

During an interview Thursday evening, her thermostat showed it was 88° inside her apartment.

The mom says the A/C in her apartment has never worked since she moved to the complex in early June. She says maintenance crews quickly fixed other issues in her apartment but made it clear fixing her A/C was not a top priority.

“It’s frustrating, because we do pay rent, and we pay the utilities, and we’re having to outsource and buy different things and fans and things like that, when we really shouldn’t have to,” she said. The mom installed a portable A/C unit in their living room, but she says it does almost nothing to cool their apartment.

A local tenant’s rights attorney says there is no state law requiring apartment complexes to provide A/C; however, he says landlords are required to provide safe living conditions for their tenants.

“There are definitely arguments that it’s important for the landlord in the context of an absence of air conditioning, to make sure that there’s some kind of coolant and if they provide an air conditioner, they are mandated to keep that air conditioner in good and safe working condition,” said Damon J. Hudson.

He says landlords typically have 7 days to fix A/C units or provide an alternative before tenants are entitled to withhold part of their monthly rent payment. He says there are certain circumstances when tenants could withhold all of their rent; however, he says those cases usually evolve into an eviction battle. With the right evidence, he says tenants can win those battles.

He says renters need to submit written notices to landlords about broken A/C’s to ensure there are date stamps. He recommends renters speak with an attorney before threatening to withhold rent payments.

“I think many of us would consider being cool in our own home and being comfortable in the home that we’re renting or whoever to be an important thing that you’re right to, especially when you’re paying monthly for that,” Hudson said.