Portable cooling devices, Oregon SB 1536, and how this law impacts both landlords and tenants and the requirements it places on them.
By Bradley S. Kraus
Partner, Warren Allen LLP
The 2022 legislative session has concluded. When compared to the sessions of the past two years—and the flurry of new laws landlords have had thrown at them arising from the same—this session seemed less noteworthy. However, the legislature did pass SB 1536, a bipartisan piece of legislation amending the Oregon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. This law tackles restrictions on the use of “portable cooling devices” from May to September of each year and imposes new requirements that housing provide cooling devices in new construction.
As you can imagine, this law was reactive to the unprecedented heat wave the Pacific Northwest experienced in the summer of 2021. Prior to SB 1536, the ORLTA had little discussion about air conditioners within the same, unless it was provided for by the landlord (at which time the landlord would have an obligation to maintain the same). From a definitional perspective, SB 1536 defines “portable cooling devices” as “air conditioners and evaporative coolers, including devices mounted in a window or that are designed to sit on the floor.” Notably, this does not include devices whose installation or use would require alteration to the dwelling unit. Senate Bill 1536 prohibits landlords from restricting tenants from installing or using portable cooling devices in most circumstances.
There are several standards to be found within Oregon SB 1536 to which tenants will need to adhere. First, the installation and use of the portable cooling device cannot violate building codes, damage the premises, or make it uninhabitable, or require electrical power that cannot be accommodated by service to the building or dwelling unit. Landlords can also require that the portable cooling device be installed or removed by the landlord or their agent, be inspected and serviced by the landlord or their agent, and finally, require that it be removed from October 1 through April 30.
There are additional restrictions allowed for portable cooling devices installed in the window. The window-installed device cannot impede necessary egress from the dwelling, interfere with the ability to lock a window, or damage the housing unit. Finally, the window-installed unit must be installed so that it is not at risk of falling. In the event the resident installs the portable cooling device (as opposed to the landlord), the landlord is immune from liability for claims for damages, injury, or death caused by a device installed by the renter. In essence, the landlord will be able to maintain some oversight over the device—and install it themselves as detailed above, should they desire—but doing so removes this liability exception.
Finally, with respect to new construction, cooling devices are now required. In buildings where permits are issued on or after April 1, 2024, the dwelling units must have cooling facilities that provide cooling in at least one room, not including a bathroom, which conform to applicable law at the time of installation and are maintained in good working order. This can include central AC or a portable air conditioning device provided by the landlord.
The impacts of global warming are upon us. The temperatures during the summer months continue to rise. The extreme temperatures felt in 2021 may be an outlier, but similar heat waves will continue. Senate Bill 1536 became effective March 24, 2022, with input from both sides of the aisle, and Multifamily NW. As the summer months approach, landlords should handle any requests related to AC units with the above in mind and reach out to counsel if they have any questions about their rights and obligations.
About the author:
Bradley S. Kraus is an attorney at Warren Allen LLP. His primary practice area is landlord/tenant law, but he also assists clients with various litigation matters, probate matters, real estate disputes, and family law matters. You can reach him at email@example.com or at 503-255-8795.
Bradley Kraus, Portland attorney