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Health department issues more than 100 violations to landlords for broken a/c

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jul 05, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — As the summer heat continues, the Marion County Public Health Department is cracking down on landlords and property owners to make sure they fix broken air conditioning units.

When the health department gets a complaint, they do an inspection and if the tenant has an existing air conditioning unit that is not operating, they will issue an order to the landlord to fix the problem.

Call 6 Investigates found the agency has issued 113 violation notices for no air conditioning since May 3, and 31 of those were emergency orders to fix the problem within 24 hours.

Many of those violations were issued in the last two weeks when temperatures soared into the upper 80s and 90s.

Troy Holyfield lives at Emerson Place apartments on the east side, and is using a fan to stay cool despite a broken air conditioner.

“We are putting ice and cold rags on and trying to stay as cool as we can with the situation,” Holyfield said. “It’s like you’ve been in the Bahamas with no shade all day and all night.”

The health department issued an emergency order to Emerson Place on July 2, which revealed broken air conditioning at the apartment complex.

Health officials ordered Emerson Place to repair or replace the air conditioning units by July 3, and if they don’t, could face a fine of up to $2,500.

Holyfield was unaware of the health department order, but said he had placed a call to the Mayor’s Action Center.

“That’s a great thing,” Holyfield said. “I appreciate any help that comes along.”

Holyfield and other tenants are still waiting for the landlord to fix the problem.

Call 6 Investigates stopped by the apartment office, but they were closed until July 8, so we left our business card at the door.

The Marion County Public Health Department typically reserves emergency orders for when someone is elderly or has a serious medical need for air conditioning.

"That's going to depend on several factors, the age of the individuals, medical necessity, whether the windows would open or not, if they've got screens,” said Lara Morgan, team leader with the Marion County Public Health Department. “So we would consider various factors."

In an emergency order, the landlord has 24 hours to fix the air conditioning, but with a regular order they typically have 30 days to address the issue.

Morgan said not every situation is urgent.

"If person that is in good health and doesn't have a medical need, then that's why it would not be considered an emergency,” Morgan said. “If they can open windows and they have screens, then it's not an emergency."

Many renters want the problem fixed quickly, but Morgan said many landlords are trying to find someone to repair or replace the air conditioning unit.

“Air conditioning repairmen are busy,” Morgan said. “We can’t fix the problem. We can use code enforcement and try to encourage them to fix it through the legal process.”

Violators can face a fine of up to $2,500 and legal proceedings if they fail to fix the problem, Morgan said.

They encourage anyone who isn’t feeling well to call 911, or cool off at a mall, cooling center, shelter, or a place with air conditioning.

As for Holyfield, he just wants his air conditioning back up and running.

“I’m hoping we get an ice box soon,” Holyfield said.