With Oregon’s summer temperatures breaking records for multiple years, lawmakers have begun implementing large-scale changes. In March, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1536 establishing a tenant’s right to have cooling units in their home. On its surface, this bill appears to require all landlords to install air conditioning in their rental units. However, there are many exceptions and clarifications which might change the scope of the bill’s requirements. 

Why Was This Law Passed?

Compared to other areas in the country, the Pacific Northwest typically enjoys milder summers, making air conditioning unnecessary for older homes. However, that fact is changing. 800 people died in the Pacific Northwest during the 2021 heat dome. While many more suffered heat-related illnesses and discomfort. This unprecedented event spurred the legislature to discuss the requirement for landlords to install cooling units in their rentals. 

In addition, it’s clear that heat crises affect renters more than owners. While 86% of Portland owner-occupied homes have air conditioning, only 66% of renter homes can claim the same. Furthermore, most owner-occupied homes have central air conditioning, while 66 percent of rental homes rely on single-room air conditioners like window or portable AC units. These units are not as effective at cooling an entire living space as central air. Thus, even tenants with room air conditioners can still suffer from the heat. 

Before this bill, tenants whose landlords banned cooling unit in their rentals may have found themselves unable to stay safe during extreme heat events. Other renters might be unable to afford cooling units independently even if their landlord does not explicitly prohibit them. 

What SB 1536 Requires

SB 1536 does not require landlords to install air conditioning in all their rental units. Instead, SB 1536 prevents landlords from banning forms of air conditioning. Although it does make exceptions for certain circumstances which might make the unit unsafe or damage the property. SB 1536 does not specify whether a cooling unit needs to be window-mounted or on the floor. It also does not apply to any cooling unit which would require permanent alterations to the dwelling to install. It also includes provisions to which tenant-installed cooling units must adhere to fall under the bill’s protection.

Exceptions to AC Requirements

While this law may initially seem reasonably comprehensive, it also contains many exceptions. These factors protect a property from damage and prevent tenant injury. The limitations which SB 1536 allows for are as follows:

  • Installing the unit must not do damage to the property.
  • The cooling unit cannot violate building codes.
  • The installation must also comply with the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.
  • The unit cannot draw more amperage than the building can accommodate.
  • A window unit must not block egress from the dwelling unit in cases with only one egress window. It also cannot interfere with the ability to lock first-floor windows.
  • The installation of a window unit cannot use brackets or hardware that would void the window’s warranty.
  • The installation must not require holes made in the building. 
  • The unit must have adequate drainage to avoid damage to the building.
  • The cooling unit must be installed in a way to prevent the device from falling.
  • The landlord can require the unit to be installed by themselves and be subject to inspection.
  • Air conditioners must be uninstalled by October 1 and not re-installed before April 30.
  • In a historic building, installing cooling units cannot require the removal of historic architectural features. 

Other Considerations

In addition to the above limitations of SB 1536, it’s important to remember that the bill also requires landlords to put any qualified restrictions on cooling units in writing and deliver them to their tenants. If you do not provide written notice of these restrictions to your tenants, you are not allowed to enforce them. Furthermore, landlords must prioritize cooling units for tenants with disabilities impacted by cooling. 

Lastly, SB 1536 provides cases when a landlord gives tenants notice of termination. When a landlord attempts to evict a tenant for violation of cooling restrictions, you must inform your tenant that the date of termination is extended by one day for every day that the area is in an extreme heat event (as defined by the NOAA). 

Should You Install an Air Conditioner in Your Rental?

While SB 1536 does not require landlords to install air conditioning in their rentals, it’s worth discussing whether air conditioning could ultimately benefit your rental business. In some cases, landlords might find that the expense of providing their rentals with cooling units actually increases their rental’s earning potential, as well as helps keep their tenants more safe. When you install your own cooling unit, you can feel confident that it will have the correct specifications and cause no damage to the building itself. It can also boost your rental’s advertising appeal, as many tenants may avoid units that don’t have air conditioning. You may be able to charge more in monthly rent for a unit with air conditioning, thus quickly paying for the unit itself. 

Professional Property Managers Can Help

The cost of an air conditioning unit can vary widely, and each rental unit will have different cooling requirements. Suppose you’re unsure whether to invest in air conditioning for your rental property or are uncertain about how SB 1536 will impact your rental business. In that case, you might benefit from working with a property management company

For years Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew has provided Portland’s small landlords with the best property management services in the area. We’ve seen many changes impact Portland’s rental scene and know how stressful it is to always stay on top of the myriad changes that Portland’s legislature can implement for landlords. That’s why we keep track of changing laws and requirements so that you don’t have to, saving you stress and inconvenience. Our expert advertising team helps put the best tenants in your rental with no delay, often renting out units on our website in a matter of hours. If you’d like to learn more about what we can offer your rental unit, call or text us at (503) 515-3170 or reach out on the contact page on our website.