AUSTIN (KXAN) — An east Austin woman featured in a KXAN investigation after her air conditioning went out in the middle of summer is now the inspiration for an effort to change Texas law.
A proposed bill filed by State Representative Sheryl Cole in the Texas Legislature would make air conditioning repair in apartment complexes a high priority and force landlords to take action if the AC stays off too long.
When KXAN Investigates Mike Rush first talked to Thelma Reyes in July 2022, she said, “I felt helpless. I couldn’t do anything.”
She was having a hard time keeping her cool.
“The thermostat read above 90 degrees,” she said. “It was hotter in here than it was outside.”
Reyes told KXAN her apartment’s AC didn’t work for five days, even though she complained to management.
“I called every day,” she said at the time. “Who’s going to come? When are you going to do it?”
With the help of her daughter, Reyes contacted her state representative, Sheryl Cole.
“They were not responsive to me initially or to KXAN, but this bill came about to remedy her situation, which they did do eventually,” Cole said.
Representative Cole said she decided state law needed to change.
“I wanted to do something to stand behind Mrs. Reyes and other people in similar situations,” Cole said.
Last July, the Austin Tenants Council told KXAN it was getting, on average, five calls a day from renters complaining of no AC.
Cole told Investigator Mike Rush at the time she would file legislation to hold apartment landlords and management accountable.
In late February 2023, she filed House Bill 2592. The measure requires apartment complexes statewide to provide air conditioning that maintains a temperature of 10 degrees below the recorded temperature outside the apartment or 85 degrees, whichever is lower.
The bill also requires landlords or management to repair or replace faulty air conditioning within five days or provide the renter an air conditioning unit or another place to stay until repairs are made.
Cole says if she gets pushback on the bill, it would most likely come from the Texas Apartment Association.
KXAN Investigates reached out to the TAA. In a statement, the association’s vice president of government affairs, David Mintz, wrote the organization hasn’t taken a position on the bill yet.
“While enforcement is typically through local code officials, the property code provides additional remedies in situations that affect health or safety,” Mintz wrote. “We look forward to learning more about why current law is not sufficient and additional protections may be needed.”