What are your landlord's responsibilities during a heat wave?

CINCINNATI — When the Tri-State faces intense heat, most of us can still count on a break from the scorching outdoors when we step inside our own homes — but what can we do when the air conditioning is someone else's responsibility?

A Cincinnati mother of four said she spent a week in the heat with a completely broken AC, and her landlord refused to fix it until Wednesday afternoon.

Sade Sebastian said her air conditioning had been on and off for months before finally grinding to a complete halt last week. 

“To get a little relief, we had to sit right under the window to feel some air coming in,” she told WCPO Sunday. “I just want them to fix this. I want to feel comfortable in my own home. You would think they’d do something faster because it’s dangerous.”

According to Sebastian, her landlord flatly refused to buy a new unit, even as she and her young children turned to cold showers, open windows and forwent cooking in order to stay cool.

Sebastian and her children are part of the housing choice voucher program, a government initiative that helps very low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities afford “safe, decent and sanitary housing in the private market.”

Air conditioning is not a requirement for living conditions to meet the program’s standards, but if it is offered, the program requires landlords to repair it when it breaks. In reality, however, there’s no penalty for landlords who don’t comply.

“You can’t really protect your babies the way you want to,” said Sebastian. “It’s frustrating.”

Fortunately, the Ohio revised code was on her side. John Woolier, a local attorney told WCPO that every landlord is required by law to "maintain in good and safe working order … air conditioning fixtures and appliances” as well as “do whatever is reasonably necessary to keep the premises in a habitable condition.”

Sebastian’s family received a new AC unit Wednesday. As more heat approaches the area, she’s glad that, at least for her, something is being done.

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