As Oregon remains in a state of emergency due to forecasted triple-digit temperatures, the city of Beaverton wants landlords to ease up on tenants trying to stay cool.
Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty said the city is reaching out to local apartment complexes that have restrictions on window-mounted air conditioning units. Many rental units don't have air conditioning and prohibit tenants from installing AC units.
As Oregon experiences its second major heat wave this summer, with temperatures expected to climb as high as 104 in the Portland region, Beaty said she's worried about those restrictions having major health and safety impacts on residents. In June, when temperatures reached 116 degrees in Oregon, at least 96 people died, according to the Oregon Medical Examiner's Office. Another 20 deaths are still being investigated, and yet it's possible the actual heat-related deaths are much higher than what's been reported by the state, according to reporting from the New York Times.
"The city of Beaverton and myself have clearly demonstrated a willingness to go to great lengths to protect people from weather-related vulnerabilities by funding a severe weather shelter, daytime and overnight cooling centers, etc." Beaty said via email. "The increasing local temperatures have raised new questions that we're working to answer. The landlord prohibition on air conditioning units that you describe is one of them."
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency due to the heat wave on Tuesday, Aug. 10. The emergency declaration remains in effect until Aug. 20. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler did the same, keeping the emergency order in effect until Aug. 15.
In Washington and Multnomah counties, cooling centerswill remain open to give the public reprieve from the heat.
Beaty was quick to respond to a woman in Beaverton who posted in a Facebook group looking for a portable AC unit, noting her apartment complex manager instructed her to remove the window unit she had installed.
Representatives of that apartment complex, Arbor Creek Apartments in Beaverton, did not respond to questions or requests for comment.
The Beaverton mayor said she's looking into whether the city has the authority to prevent landlords from prohibiting the use of those AC units, especially during an excessive heat warning and dangerous heat wave.
"Our team worked quickly to see what authority we have to make changes," Beaty said. "Having that information will also allow our policymakers to consider whether or not existing laws adequately address this issue."
Beaty said she and others from the city reached out to apartment complexes "to make sure that people can use their ACs as the temperatures rise today."
Oregon's current rules for tenants don't require landlords to provide air conditioning, but they do require a rental unit be "habitable."
Liz Merah, press secretary for Gov. Brown's office, said the state's focus is on "encouraging people to recognize the signs of heat-related illness, take proactive steps to stay cool and healthy, and for those who don't have air conditioning at home, to make a plan to get to a cooling center in their area."
The governor's office acknowledged the need for elderly and vulnerable populations to access to air conditioning.
"In the long-term, placing free or low-cost air conditioners, cooling systems, or alternatives with less of an impact to the environment in the homes of vulnerable and at-risk populations was an area identified for further study by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management following the June heat wave," Merah said, noting the governor's office will continue to work with county leaders and other agencies to help people prepare for the heat.
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