As summer heats up, health department begins issuing violations for broken air conditioning

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INDIANAPOLIS — Though it’s not as cut and dry as a lack of heat in the winter, local health departments often consider problems with air conditioning in rental units to be an emergency issue.

FOX59 heard from multiple residents at 9 on Canal in downtown Indianapolis about broken air conditioning. Cameron Ghazi submitted his first maintenance request in early April, but said it was closed without any resolution. In seven subsequent requests, Ghazi became more desperate, noting in his most recent request, “I am miserable.”

“Right now, it’s 90 degrees [in my apartment.] There have been nights where I’ve just slept at work because it’s so hot here,” Ghazi said.

Until he started doing more research, Ghazi said he did not know he could contact the Marion County Health Department, or MCHD, about the issue.

“I didn’t really know what other avenue to pursue,” Ghazi said.

MCHD Team Leader Lara Morgan noted that in order for inspectors to get involved, a rental unit must have an existing air conditioning unit and residents should put in maintenance requests and speak to managers before contacting the department.

According to Morgan, inspectors can decide how long to give a landlord to fix air conditioning, but in emergency situations it is only 24 hours. Morgan noted that a lack of windows with screens, along with vulnerable people in an apartment like children, the elderly and those with documented medical needs, all raise the issue to an emergency level.

“We generally will err on the side of safety,” Morgan said.

In addition, Morgan said that once summer heats up, her team will start considering all air conditioning issues as an emergency violation.

“As soon as it starts to get pretty hot from day to day and the evening temperatures don’t cool down very much, we will start addressing those as emergencies,” Morgan said.

On June 4, an inspector gave 9 on Canal three days to fix its air conditioning issues. An MCHD spokesperson confirmed that due to delayed repairs, the case was forwarded to the department’s legal team for possible court action.

Ghazi will move out of state soon, but hoped that his case would serve to educate other renters about the steps they can take to get help this summer.

“At a minimum, they should be forced to fix the current issue for people that are stuck in leases,” Ghazi said.

FOX59 reached out to 9 on Canal’s manager for comment and received the following statement:

We have been working actively with the contractor who services the air handling systems at 9 on Canal to get repairs made expeditiously to the HVAC units that are currently inoperable. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has created disruptions to the supply chains throughout the country and we have been faced with challenges in getting the equipment needed to make repairs. Parts have been on back order for quite some time and back order time frames have been unusually long – especially for the types of specialized equipment needed at the building. In the interim, we have located portable air conditioning units that are being provided to residents to ease their discomfort while we wait for parts to complete permanent repairs.

Alexandra Jackiw, Chief Operating Officer, Hayes Gibson Property Services

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