If your apartment building is in a warm area but does not have air conditioning, you may have a hard time attracting tenants. Installing central air will certainly make your property more appealing to residents, but if your building's setup or your budget does not allow for this upgrade, there's another option to consider. You could supply your residents with window air conditioner units, rather than leaving them to supply their own. This would make life easier on your tenants and save them some cash, while also improving your occupancy rate and allowing you to charge slightly more rent.
If you do decide that supplying window units to your tenants is a good idea, here are a few tips to ensure the process goes smoothly:
Make sure tenants are responsible for their own electric bills.
If you've been including electricity in the cost of rent, you'll want to change that before you start supplying tenants with window air conditioners. A 5,000 btu air conditioner costs about $1.60 per day to run, on average, and if you supply a more powerful air conditioner for tenants, the cost of electricity will be even higher. You don't want to get stuck with high electricity bills in the summer.
There's another reason why it's best to have your tenants pay for their own electricity separately when you supply window units. If you were to pay for the electricity, a lot of tenants would use their air conditioners endlessly, putting excessive wear on the units. When tenants pay for their own electricity, they're more likely to use their air conditioners conservatively, which will result in the units lasting longer.
Install the units yourself, or have a maintenance crew do so for you.
If you leave tenants to install the units, you may find that they are either installed incorrectly or that they become damaged during the installation process. Have your maintenance crew do the installation at the beginning of summer, and also have them remove the air conditioners in the fall. If you don't have a maintenance crew and only have a few apartments to cover, do this yourself or ask a local HVAC contractor if they'd be willing to do so for a small fee. Let your tenants know well in advance what day you'll be around to install or remove the units, and send them a reminder note or email to make sure they know not to remove the units themselves once the weather starts cooling off.
See if you can get a bulk discount from an HVAC or appliance company.
This is especially important to keep in mind if you own a lot of apartments. Heating and air conditioning companies often purchase window units from manufacturers at wholesale cost, so if you order a lot of them at once, the company may be able to give you a discount so you end up paying less than the standard retail cost.
Collect the units and store them elsewhere during the off season.
Don't simply leave the units in tenants' apartments after you take them out in the fall. They might become damaged if tenants do not store them properly, and tenants might be tempted to try putting them in the windows themselves come spring. Some less scrupulous residents may even be tempted to sell or steal the units, which can create a lot of legal headaches. Avoid these issues by keeping the air conditioners in a separate shed or storage unit, preferably off-site, when they're not in use.
Supplying tenants with window air conditioners is a nice amenity if you cannot offer central air. As long as you go about it the right way, following the tips above, you should find that your residents are very happy with this feature and that it improves the reputation of your apartments.