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Denton will require AC for renters, prevent bans on window units

A Fridgidaire window air-conditioning unit is nestled into a window.
Keren Carrión
The Denton City Council voted Tuesday to require air conditioning in all rental properties. Another newly approved ordinance will also prevent homeowners associations from prohibiting air-conditioning window units during the summer months.

Denton residents will now have a right to air conditioning after the City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to require air conditioning in all rental properties.

Repairs to air conditioners at rental units must also be done in a reasonable amount of time, according to a presentation by city staff.

Denton City Council members also voted 4-3 to prevent community associations — such as homeowners associations, neighborhood associations and mobile home parks — from prohibiting or restricting air-conditioning window units during the summer months, or when they’re needed for health and safety reasons.

Prohibiting or restricting window units could result in a misdemeanor charge with up to a $500 fine.

Mayor Gerard Hudspeth and District 4 council member Joe Holland cast dissenting votes on both ordinances. Holland called the ordinance preventing community associations from restricting window units confusing and said he was worried about how it would be implemented.

Though she supported the first ordinance, Place 6 council member Jill Jester didn’t support adding regulations for community associations that have rules in place against window units, which property owners agree to when they move into a community.

“We do have to respect people’s choices and property owner rights,” Jester said.

District 3 council member Paul Meltzer kick-started city staff’s deep dive into Denton’s lack of air-conditioning regulations in October after reading a Sept. 7 report in the Denton Record-Chronicle about a mobile home park with a ban on window units.

It had become a public health issue for park residents who couldn’t afford or didn’t have good enough credit to get their central heat and air units installed or repaired

“It’s like I’m baking in an oven,” a park resident told the newspaper.

In April, the council gave city staff direction to draft an ordinance that would require mandatory installation on air conditioners in rental properties and prevent community associations from disallowing window units.

“Most people are stunned to hear this isn’t already an ordinance,” Meltzer told the Record-Chronicle in April. “It defies common decency in a region increasingly facing multiple hundred-plus-degree days not to provide or allow for working air conditioning. It’s a matter of health and safety.”

On Thursday, Meltzer called it a “small blow for common decency, common sense and health and safety, especially for people struggling at the margins.”

Community associations, however, can restrict window units during the months when heating is necessary, provided such restrictions are clearly communicated and agreed upon in advance, according to Tuesday’s staff presentation.

The presentation also mentioned that the new regulations shall occur “notwithstanding any provision in a Community Association’s bylaws, covenants, conditions, and restrictions.”

But City Attorney Mack Reinwand had a different take on Tuesday night when Hudspeth questioned him about it and the agreement that property owners had made with their community association and wondered if the ordinances will amend the language of the agreement.

“Just to be clear, it’s not going to change the language of the agreement,” Reinwand said. “But the [city’s] regulation will effectively say that is not enforceable.”

Reinwand explained that the city will enforce the ordinances through citations.

Hudspeth also wondered about the language in the ordinance that says “safeguarding their right to use window air conditioning units.”

“Who gives us a right to window air conditioning?” Hudspeth questioned.

Reinwand responded, “This ordinance is effectively what’s going to provide that.”