How can I cool my apartment?
July 9, 2010 5:04 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep my apartment cool? And what are my landlord's responsibilities in maintaining my air conditioner?

I live in Texas. The central air conditioning in my apartment (1970s-built tract apartments, not well-designed for functioning without proper HVAC) broke magnificently a few days ago - blew out the main breaker to the apartment and everything. I've called the landlord's office several times, but only ever manage to get the answering service (I made sure to get home in time to call during business hours today, got the answering service anyway, and walked down to the office personally only to find that he had inexplicably closed up shop 90 minutes early). They keep telling me they're paging maintenance, but so far maintenance has not contacted me. How long should I deal with this, and how would I escalate it if I had to?

More importantly, how can we keep comfortable inside the house in the meantime? It is currently 85 degrees and rising in the living room, which is the coolest place in the apartment - it's spacious enough to have proper air movement, and has a set of French doors that are mercifully shaded by the upstairs neighbour's balcony. The rest of the house, where we need to do things like sleep (and use computers - the workroom with our computers in it is unbearable right now, because computers make heat), is even hotter, with less air circulation and tiny windows that don't do much even if we open them for breezes and keep the Venetians closed for shade.

We do not have overhead fans. We do have one small electric fan. We've been taking a lot of cold showers. Any other hints for cooling the house and keeping ourselves from overheating would be greatly appreciated. At least our budgies seem to be enjoying this impromptu heat wave.
posted by titus n. owl to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If it's a dry heat, try rigging up your own swamp cooler, although a single small fan may not do much. Is there any reason why you can't get a second fan? Are stores sold out?

Related questions that might help you:

the physics of keeping cool

Would hanging a wet sheet help?

Summer in Terminal City

posted by maudlin at 5:20 PM on July 9, 2010

Response by poster: We can't get a second fan because we're between paychecks this week and used up the last one on rent and bills, actually. *embarrassed* We could technically afford to go drop $20 on a second fan, but it's $20 we would rather not spend on what ought to be a temporary inconvenience.

Unfortunately it's pretty humid in this part of the state lately, but we can test the swamp cooler idea anyway, since it's drier indoors than out. And thank you for the links to the related questions - I must have searched poorly not to have seen them in my pre-post search, and I'll read them now.
posted by titus n. owl at 5:43 PM on July 9, 2010

Best answer: As for dealing with your landlord, I had a similar problem when I was a renter, although it was several years ago. I got advice from a local tenants' organization - if you can find one, or even one in a neighboring city, give them a call. They're very helpful. What spurred action for me was a registered letter, signature required, to my landlord describing the problem and requesting immediate maintenance. It's worth a try, although it might not get you anything over the weekend.
posted by Addlepated at 5:50 PM on July 9, 2010

I was reminded by my neighbor yesterday after I replaced some stuff for the common outdoors area in our apartment building that you can simply get the work done yourself, get a receipt, and deduct the amount from your rent.

If he's not responding to you, I'd call an HVAC tech and bill your landlord (if you can swing the payment, of course). If you want to be an asshole and teach him a lesson, call an emergency HVAC tech on the weekend and bill your landlord.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:17 PM on July 9, 2010

I don't know about Texas, but here in New York, the Warrant of Habitability includes ventilation, heat, and water. Electricity, historically considered a luxury, is not covered, so if it's not in your lease they don't even have to insure that it is available.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:32 PM on July 9, 2010

Response by poster: Well, according to this site (which I only just found, or I wouldn't have felt the need to write this question), Texas state law says that if the landlord gave me an apartment with an air conditioner in it, the landlord is legally required to maintain the air conditioner. I'm writing a formal letter notifying him that it needs repair and giving it to him in person tomorrow, assuming that he's actually in the office and hasn't mysteriously closed the way he did today.

I'd be very hesitant about getting it done myself and billing him/withholding the rent, even if we had the cash available, because I'm dreadfully afraid I'd end up getting in trouble for it and being evicted for non-payment and/or stuck with the bill myself. I'll have to keep trying this swamp cooler thing for the next five days.
posted by titus n. owl at 7:05 PM on July 9, 2010

You might consider sending a registered letter rather than hand delivering the letter. Having a paper trail in cases like this can be useful...
posted by gregr at 10:04 PM on July 9, 2010

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