AUSTIN (KXAN) – It’s not as if Jake Salinas was dialing down the digits on his thermostat with reckless abandon.

A few weeks ago, his air conditioning was set to, what he considers, a conservative 76 degrees.

Austin Resident Jake Salinas explains how the AC in his apartment wasn't cooling properly (KXAN Photo/Chris Nelson)
Austin Resident Jake Salinas explains how the AC in his apartment wasn’t cooling properly (KXAN Photo/Chris Nelson)

“It started at 78 and then eventually would go to 81 and 82,” Salinas said. “That felt off, obviously.” The air was blowing, he said, but the AC was not cooling properly.

Salinas said he notified his complex and the issue was fixed the next day. Still, he couldn’t help but tweet about what he dubbed a “fun fact” about his situation: how he’d spent several months working on a bill to mandate working air conditioning and now his own AC wasn’t working well.

Working on bills is part of Salinas’ job as the legislative director for Texas Rep. Sheryl Cole, D-Austin.

“He receives the constituent complaints a lot of times for my office,” Cole said.

  • Austin State Lawmaker Sheryl Cole vows to try again to make AC for renters mandatory (KXAN Photo/Chris Nelson)
  • Jake Salinas, who is legislative director for Austin State Rep. Sheryl Cole, tweeted about his AC issue (Courtesy Jake Salinas)

Complaints turned to action

It was one of those complaints in July 2022 from a constituent named Thelma Reyes that inspired Cole to file a bill in February 2023 to prioritize AC issues for renters.

Reyes had been without cool air for five days even though she said she had alerted her apartment’s management.

“It was hotter in here than it was outside,” Reyes said at the time.

Cole’s bill aimed to require landlords to provide functioning air conditioning.

“And this surprised us, when we were working on the issue, that it is not a requirement in the State of Texas to have AC in your apartment unit,” Salinas said.  

The bill also established more rules if the AC goes out.

“It would have cut the amount of time that a landowner had to repair an air conditioning unit from seven days to five and during that time they had to have inputted a portable air conditioning unit, not a fan,” Cole said.

But the bill was never heard in committee.

“I just think the members didn’t think that it was as necessary as it is,” Cole said.

Cole said the measure’s biggest opponent was the Texas Apartment Association.

A spokesperson for the TAA sent KXAN Investigator Mike Rush this statement:

Texas is a large state that includes eight unique climate zones and a diverse array of rental housing options. While air conditioning is a common feature in many homes, it is not always included at a residential property. The decision not to include air conditioning may reflect the rental property’s location, the age of the property or other factors.

Texas has laws in place to protect renters under the Texas Property Code including a duty on rental property owners to take reasonable steps to repair and not delay in attempting to make repairs of any condition that materially affects the health or safety of a typical resident.

We encourage all residents to read their lease, which outlines their community’s maintenance and repair process, and to ask questions if they do not understand it.”

Kyle Jackson, TAA Vice President of Government Affairs

Still, Cole said her bill is needed.

“I feel strongly about it and I’m still receiving complaints in my district, so I plan to file a bill again,” she said.

Cole can’t file another air conditioning related bill until the next legislative session in 2025 and she still has to be re-elected before then.

In the meantime, a spokesperson for Austin City Councilwoman Vanessa Fuentes confirms to KXAN Investigates Fuentes is “in the early stages of looking at this issue and potential solutions” on the city level.