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Is charging extra for air conditioning illegal? That’s what a lawsuit filed this week in the Fairfax County Circuit Court is saying. The suit says that there is nothing in the lease about fees for air conditioning, and that the fee violates a Virginia housing law,which prevents landlords from charging tenants more for utilities than what […]
Is charging extra for air conditioning illegal? That’s what a lawsuit filed this week in the Fairfax County Circuit Court is saying. The suit says that there is nothing in the lease about fees for air conditioning, and that the fee violates a Virginia housing law,which prevents landlords from charging tenants more for utilities than what it costs to provide them. The Quinteros — the couple bringing the suit — must currently pay an extra $75 a month to use their air conditioner.
Though the couple have other air conditioners in the apartment, they do not turn them on, as they are not being able to afford the extra charges for using them.
“We’re bearing the heat because the one air conditioner is all we can afford,” explained Amanda Quinteros in an interview with the Washington Post. They are seeking an injunction against future fees for all apartments in the complex, as well as damages for past fees.
JBG Residential Services LLC, the property management company listed in the lawsuit, sends a memorandum to tenants every spring regarding air conditioner usage. Each air conditioner costs $75 to run per month, or $325 total from April to September. Staff members for the company check on apartments to see whether the units are in use. Supposedly, the charge — which is separate from the utility costs used to run the air conditioners — is used to ensure the ACs meet “aesthetic standards.”
Community organizers have been trying to rally residents for several years into legally questioning the extra fee, which is not typical for the area. The complex itself, Olde Salem Village Apartment Homes, rents out apartments at a median cost of $1,500 a month, which is a cheaper rent overall than other apartments in the area. This has likely contributed to many staying quiet about the additional summer fees, not wanting to risk losing out on overall lower rent prices.
“Nobody wants to say anything, out of fear of being thrown out,” said Quinteros.
Quinteros, for her part, makes the extra money through babysitting and selling El Salvadoran tamales at a price of $1 each.
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