2022 Short Session Legislative Update – Portable Cooling Devices

The 2022 legislative season was relatively uneventful as compared to the previous years. The only significant legislation passed impacting the housing industry was the bipartisan Emergency Heat Relief bill SB 1536, that Multifamily NW successfully negotiated, and was signed into law and effective on March 24, 2022. This law amends the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Act to limit restrictions on renter use of portable cooling devices from May to September of each year. It also requires that housing providers provide cooling devices in new construction.

Overview of Requirements
SB 1536 governs restrictions on “portable cooling devices”, which are defined to comprise “air conditioners and evaporative coolers, including devices mounted in a window or that are designed to sit on the floor.” This definition does not include devices whose installation or use would require alteration to the dwelling unit.

General Rules
Housing providers may not prohibit or restrict residents from installing or using a portable cooling device (including window units) of the renters choosing except for the broad restrictions discussed below:

Optional restrictions on all portable cooling devices

The installation or use of the device may not:

  • Violate building codes or state or federal law;
  • Violate the device manufacturer’s written safety guidelines for the device;
  • Damage the premises or render the premises uninhabitable; or
  • Require amperage to power the device that cannot be accommodated by the power service to the building, dwelling unit or circuit.

Housing Providers may require that the device be:

  • Installed or removed by the housing provider or housing provider’s agent;
  • Subject to inspection or servicing by the housing provider or housing provider’s; or
  • Removed from October 1 through April 30.

Optional restrictions on portable cooling devices for windows

The installation of the window device may not:

  1. Impede necessary egress from the dwelling;
  2. Interfere with the renter’s ability to lock a window that is accessible from outside;
  3. Require the use of brackets or other hardware that would damage or void the warranty of the window or frame,
  4. puncture the envelope of the building or otherwise cause significant damages;
  5. Be used without being adequately drained to prevent damage to the dwelling unit or building; or
  6. Be installed in a manner that does not prevent risk of falling.

IMPORTANT: Housing providers may only enforce the optional restrictions addressed above if they provide a written list of restrictions to the residents. The written restrictions must also state whether the housing provider intends to operate a community cooling space, which is strictly optional.

Regarding restrictions related to electrical amperage limitations wherein the property does have some capacity (but not enough for the entire community to use their own device), housing providers must prioritize those with a disability who need portable cooling devices.

Special termination rules for violation of AC restrictions

Assuming that a renter installs a device in violation of portable cooling device rules, a termination notice may be issued but the applicable cure or termination period will be tolled (i.e. paused) during extreme heat events, which is defined as any day on which the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted or indicated that there exists a heat index of extreme caution for the county. In addition, the termination notice for a portable cooling device violation must state that the date of termination specified in the notice will be extended by one day for each day that there is an extreme heat event for the county of the premises; and that information regarding days with an extreme heat event can be found on the website for the Oregon Housing and Community Services agency.

Housing Provider Liability Protections Regarding Portable Cooling Devices

Under SB 1536, housing providers are not responsible for any interruption in electrical service that is not caused by the housing provider including interruptions caused by an electrical supply’s inability to accommodate use of a portable cooling device.

In addition, housing providers are immune from liability for any claim for damages, injury or death caused by a portable cooling device installed by the renter. Based upon this protection, housing providers will likely require residents to properly install their own portable cooling devices.

Cooling Requirements in New Construction

For new construction, cooling facilities will be required. Specifically, in a building where building permits for its construction were issued on or after April 1, 2024, the dwelling units must have adequate cooling facilities that:

  • Provide cooling in at least one room of the dwelling unit, not including a bathroom;
  • Conform to applicable law at the time of installation and are maintained in good working order; and
  • May include central air conditioning, an air-source or ground-source heat pump or a portable air conditioning device that is provided by the housing provider

Investments in Heating and Cooling

  • In addition to the regulations discussed above, SB 1536 enacted a variety of new programs, including:
  • an air conditioner and air filter deployment program;
  • upgrades to Oregon’s Housing and Community Services Department website proving information on extreme heat
  • events and cooling centers, and other resources;
  • a heat pump deployment program;
  • residential heat pump rebates and grants; and
  • a warming, cooling, and clean air shelters program.

Effective Immediately

SB 1536 is passed as an emergency measure and takes effect on passage. Consequently, housing providers should send out restrictions on portable cooling devices as soon as possible. 

Compliance & Training Opportunity

Multifamily NW Forms Collection has been updated for compliance for SB 1536 with a new M194 Portable Cooling Devices Rules that is now live at TenantTech.com and RentalFormsCenter.com. Paper forms inventory will be available by the end of April.

Register for a training on these new laws with Andor Law landlord/tenant law attorney Marcel Gesmundo on Friday, April 8, 2022 from 9:00 to 10:00am.