For Immediate Release
May 3, 2023
Contact: Chantal Fuller, Communications Director
Councilmember HendersonIntroduces Legislation to Support Tenants
Washington, DC—Today, Councilmember Christina Henderson introduced Cooling Our Overheated Living Spaces (“COOLS”) Regulation Amendment Act of 2023.
Each year, tenants eagerly await the arrival of May 15—when air conditioning is turned on in apartment buildings in which tenants cannot individually control their indoor heating and air conditioning. In the past few years, average local temperatures have steadily risen, and many tenants who depend on their landlord to initiate the annual change to air conditioning from heating have wanted to access air conditioning much earlier than May 15. The District is a leader on climate issues and serves as a model for other jurisdictions, but we are still vulnerable to longer periods and higher peaks of elevated heat. A tenant who cannot individually control the internal temperature of their home due to the design or age of their building should not have to swelter in their home while waiting for May 15 to arrive.
The Cooling Our Overheated Living Spaces (“COOLS”) Regulation Amendment Act of 2023 makes key changes to the District's housing code. The bill would require landlords to maintain air conditioning units or systems to provide inside temperatures 15° F less than outside temperatures between April 15 and October 31 of each year. The bill would amend regulations to require that air conditioning units be inspected and maintained between September 1 and April 1 of each year, and any defects discovered during the inspection must be corrected by May 1.
To diminish the impacts of increased energy use required by these changes, the bill would require the Department of Energy and Environment, Sustainable Energy Utilities, and the Green Finance Authority to establish a Cooling Energy Offset program to provide grants and financing to owners of rental buildings who are subject to the air conditioning regulations. The program would allow building owners to make investments that increase the energy efficiency and renewable energy-generating capacity of the buildings and to offset the required increased energy use. “While we must ensure that tenants can rely on comfortable indoor temperatures in the face of rising temperatures, it would be counterproductive to respond to the impacts of climate change by requiring additional non-renewable or inefficient energy usage,” remarked Councilmember Henderson.
Climate change in the District means that several, if not dozens, of days with temperatures exceeding 80° F will occur prior to May 15 in the future. Furthermore, within the District, there are disparities of up to 17° F in the high temperature on a given summer day due to heat island effects. “The District has some of the most robust energy efficiency goals in the nation, but changes to local weather trends depend on global energy policies and renewable energy take-up. We must update regulations to reflect this new climate reality and ensure safe interior temperatures for those residents who depend on their landlords for access to air conditioning,” said Councilmember Henderson.
The Cooling Our Overheated Living Spaces Regulation Amendment Act of 2023 was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Janeese Lewis George, Zachary Parker, Brooke Pinto, and Brianne K. Nadeau.