Air Conditioning and Heating Regulations
The chapter is working on an issue concerning the residential “heating season” regulations, which govern when landlords, property owners and building managers are required to provide heat to its residents. By law, they must provide residents with access to heat during the “heating season”, which ends on June 15. For many residents the building’s heating system remains on until June 15th and they are unable to access to air conditioning until after June 15th. Similarly, the heat must be available to residents on September 15th and they may not have access to air conditioning after that date.
This becomes an issue when unseasonably hot weather occurs. There were days last spring, prior to June 15th, when the temperature climbed above 80 degrees. Residents were left coping with temperatures of 90+ in their apartments. Residents faced the same challenges in the fall, after September 15th when the temperatures climbed into the 80’s. As the weather is getting increasingly warmer, this becomes a real health concern. In 2011 and 2012, disability activists met with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to highlight this issue and the adverse impact that the current regulations are having on residents with MS and other chronic illnesses as well as elders and children.
As a result of these meetings, DPH has proposed changes in the Sanitation Code to address this issue. The goal is to amend regulations to provide local boards of health with a more flexible waiver process. The new regulation allows boards of health to issue a waiver in light of a high temperature forecast, allowing property owners to turn on the air conditioning. The other change is to end the heating season on May 31 rather than June 15.
To address the situation in the near term, disability advocates worked in collaboration with DPH to send a letter from the Commissioner of DPH to all 351 city/town localities to clarify existing regulations. The letter explained that property managers are able to provide air conditioning during the heating season prior to June 15th. In fact, building owners can keep air conditioning systems on all year round so long as heat is also available during that time. The chapter also sent this letter to local Disability Commissions in the state to make them aware of this issue.
Status: Because the proposed changes in the Sanitary Code could impact other building codes, the Building Code Coordinating Council must first clear the proposed regulatory changes of any conflict. After the regulatory changes are cleared, these changes are then proposed to the Public Health Council and voted upon. Upon approval of the Public Health Council, the code changes are published for public hearing and comment.