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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane landlords can no longer ban tenants from installing AC units

The Spokane City Council voted Monday to force landlords to allow tenants to install air conditioning units, just as summer-like heat starts to descend on the Inland Northwest.  (Christopher Anderson)

Spokane landlords will no longer be able to ban their tenants from installing an air conditioner.

After a unanimous vote Monday by the Spokane City Council, the ordinance introduced by Councilwoman Kitty Klitzke in May will take effect in mid-July, just as scorching temperatures are likely to grip the Inland Northwest.

The council pointed to the disproportionate effects on low-income and other marginalized communities of extreme weather events such as the 2021 heat dome, which caused at least 19 deaths in Spokane County, according to the Washington state Department of Health.

Originally, the law would have been in effect during “extreme heat events” as defined by the National Weather Service, but the ordinance approved Monday removes that restriction and will be effective throughout the year. A provision that would have allowed landlords to require the devices be removed during the winter was also removed, after tenants lobbied for permission to use multipurpose devices that may also provide heat or dehumidify.

The ordinance went through a number of revisions before its adoption Monday, including to tighten up possible loopholes that still may have allowed landlords to prevent the installation of an air conditioner, including if the device needed brackets to be installed in a window.

Installation can still be prevented if it would cause “unreasonable” damage or require “excessive” use of brackets, which is not clearly defined but would hopefully be considered by local courts if a tenant sued under the new law, Klitzke said.

Landlords can also require that they be the ones responsible for installation, removal and inspection of a unit.