DEAR HARRIETTE: My air-conditioning unit has not been functioning in my apartment in this summer heat. “Thomas,” my landlord, has been completely useless and ignores my complaints. I don’t have the cash to threaten him with a lawsuit, but I want to stand up for myself. I live in an area where it reaches 90 degrees during the day! I find myself staying late at work just because I dread coming home to that suffocating heat. How can I get Thomas to take action? I don’t know any of his other renters to ask for advice on how to deal with him. -- Heatwave, Atlanta
DEAR HEATWAVE: Check your lease to see if it says explicitly that your apartment comes complete with an air-conditioning unit. If it is written there, you have the legal right to have your landlord provide a working air conditioner. Next, let your landlord know that you will either withhold your rent -- in escrow -- until he repairs or replaces your air conditioner, or you will have it repaired or replaced and take the cost out of your rent. Either option is fair if your lease proves that he should be providing this for you. Put your suggestions in writing. Follow up with a text and a call. If you still get no response, collect your documentation so that you can prove that you made an effort, and go get some air conditioning!