PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As many in the Portland metro try to cool off from this week’s heat wave, some are having to overcome obstacles with their landlords when it comes to air conditioning. Earlier in 2022, a law was passed to allow renters the right to air conditioning, but some landlords are still fighting it through fines and notices.
Sunny Sidman has lived in her apartment in Tigard for about a year. However, this was the first week she needed to break out her window air conditioning unit, only for her complex to push back.
“On Monday, right when the first really hot day was going to happen, I had bought just a portable unit anyway, so I wasn’t breaking the policy,” said Sidman. “But they sent an email saying in-window units were not allowed and that made me really angry because we were going into a heat wave.”
She didn’t name the property, but says the notice went on to threaten a $50 fine. Sidman contacted a tenants’ rights attorney to ask if it was legal, only to learn earlier this year, the Oregon State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1536, protecting renters’ rights to AC, following last year’s heat dome. She then shared the concerns with the property.
“They kind of brushed me off and said, oh, we’ll tell the manager you have concerns about legality,” said Sidman. “The next day, they sent an email they were clarifying their policy which really was changing their policy to say that window units are allowed now.”
Local attorney Troy Pickard deals with tenants’ rights and says he’s already seen a lot of landlords not know about the new law.
“The main thing that we’re seeing is landlords who are telling tenants that they have blanket prohibitions on air conditioners and just telling tenants no matter what, you cannot have one. That kind of prohibition is specifically not allowed by the new air conditioning rules,” said Pickard, managing attorney at Portland Defender. “I think there are a lot of tenants who might have had air conditioners but didn’t even have them installed until we got to the heat wave or who went out and bought one at a store or on Craigslist leading up to the heat wave so now is when landlords are seeing the air conditioners so now is when landlords are trying to enforce their rules.”
Pickard says the law does allow some instances where window units can’t be installed, but it’s best to see what your rental agreement is and read up on the law.
“A landlord can say, you can’t use an air conditioner if it overloads the building’s electrical systems, you might not be able to install an air conditioner if it would somehow violate a historic building,” said Pickard.
Sidman hopes fellow renters will also learn about their rights, especially as the heat continues through the weekend.
“There’s not the expectation that landlords are going to install air conditioning in those units, but tenants who purchase their own units should be allowed to use them,” said Sidman.
Pickard added if you still are confused after going through your rental agreement and the law, you can ask a lawyer that specializes in landlord-tenant issues, or even go to an organization like Community Alliance of Tenants for help.