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Denton mobile home park’s ban on window AC units leaves some residents sweltering

Ashli Oaks in Denton bans window air-conditioning units.
Courtesy photo
Ashli Oaks via Facebook
Ashli Oaks in Denton bans window air-conditioning units.

As Texas’ second-hottest summer on record comes to a close, high heat continues, and residents of a Denton mobile home park say the property’s ban on window air-conditioning units has led to sweltering indoor temperatures.

“It’s like I’m baking in an oven,” Mike, a resident who asked to be referred to by his nickname, told the Denton Record-Chronicle.

With excessive heat warnings nearly every day in Denton County, public health experts have warned against the dangers of high temperatures. But for some residents of Ashli Oaks who say they cannot afford to fix their central AC units, the park’s enforcement of a ban on window units has left them without many options for staying cool.

Mike said he has lived on the property for 15 years — he owns his mobile home but is subject to the property’s leasing rules. Although the park’s community guidelines mention that window AC units are prohibited, Mike says the rules have never been enforced until this spring, when he received a notice on his door warning him that he would be subject to fines of $50-$350 unless he removed his units.

Mike, along with a nearby neighbor the Record-Chronicle spoke with who asked not to be publicly identified for fear of retaliation from management, say they’ve used the last of their savings to invest in portable stand AC units, but the units haven’t kept the insides of their homes adequately cool.

“I’m on disability, I’ve got multiple sclerosis and diabetes, so I can’t regulate my body temperature as well as everyone else, and my living room is 103 degrees right now,” Mike said on a Monday afternoon in late August.

Interior air-conditioning units are not as efficient as window units since they release warm air back into the room. Even when vented outside, hot air easily escapes from the exhaust hose and is recirculated instead of going directly out, as is the case with a window unit. Portable units also tend to be less efficient, leading to higher energy bills, and are usually rated for smaller rooms.

Mike said he keeps his lights off and takes cold showers during the day to try to stay cool and has difficulty using the restroom when temperatures are at their highest since it gets so hot.

Ashli Oaks property management and regional management referred the Record-Chronicle to Yes Communities corporate, which owns Ashli Oaks. The media line did not return requests for comment about the rules prohibiting window units. The property houses more than 600 mobile homes, according to its website.

The dangers of inadequate cooling for residents have called into question bans on window units for years, with some states like Oregon prohibiting such bans in most cases following the deadly heat wave that killed hundreds in summer 2021, most of them low-income and elderly residents without access to adequate air conditioning. In Texas, at least 13 people died during June’s heat wave, and there have been 231 reported cases of heat-related illness in Denton County this year, including two deaths.

Many property managers say the bans are to prevent damage from improperly installed units, as well as injury and death caused by units falling from second-story rentals. Landlords in Texas, as in many states, are not legally required to provide tenants with air conditioning, though repair and remedy laws require landlords to make repairs when it “materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant.” In some cities like Dallas, ordinances require rentals to have working air conditioning, though Denton does not have a similar city mandate.

In communities like Ashli Oaks, where many residents own their mobile homes, the parkwide rules can often be for aesthetic reasons. The community guidelines do not specify the reasoning for the ban.

The residents also say they feel targeted because some window units, which were visible on a drive through the park last week, remain in place. Mike’s neighbor said she hasn’t reported them to the office, though, because she doesn’t want other people to experience what her family has this summer.

“There are some people here that would have no options, and it could be very dangerous for them — this kind of heat can kill you,” she said.