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Los Angeles Mandate on Air Conditioning Multifamily Units Could Come at Cost To Owners

Apartment Association Says Many Owners Couldn't Afford the Proposed Requirements

Multifamily Conditioning

The city of Los Angeles is exploring whether to mandate that all rental residential properties offer a cooling apparatus. (Getty Images/iStock)

By Jack Witthaus CoStar News

June 5, 2023 | 4:06 P.M.

A potential new rule mandating Los Angeles multifamily owners install air conditioning is expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars for apartment owners, according to the city's multifamily association.

Los Angeles' City Council agreed on May 31 to explore requiring a "cooling apparatus" in all residential rental units along with programs to assist some residents to help offset increased energy costs, according to city of L.A. documents. The city is looking into potential costs, location of units and code requirements to make this effort possible.

The number of properties and units that don't have air conditioning wasn't known to the city of Los Angeles, according to the documents. About 20% of L.A. households don't have air conditioning largely due to the city's history of year-round mild weather weather, according to Washington, D.C.-based think tank Brookings. However, extreme heat in cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles, is causing policymakers to rethink air conditioning needs as the planet grapples with rising temperatures.

Hot temperatures can be deadly: 3,900 deaths were caused by extreme heat from 2010 to 2019 in California, according to the Los Angeles Times.

However, requiring landlords to install air conditioning will be costly, said Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles which advocates on behalf of multifamily owners. Yukelson said he recently spent $25,000 to upgrade the electricity before spending another $30,000 to install a central air conditioning system in a four-unit apartment property he owns in Los Angeles. Maintenance of the system runs around $1,000 annually.

Yukelson said he was able to charge a premium for rents since he upgraded the AC. However, the cost to add air conditioning may be burdensome to some apartment owners, he said.

"Well over 80% of rental properties in Los Angeles are owned by independent, mom-and-pop housing providers who do not have the financial wherewithal today to comply with the new requirements," Yukelson said.

Grid Implications

Beyond cost, the city of Los Angeles is asking the Los Angeles Department Of Water and Power to look into the implications to city's electrical grid if "every residential unit in the city were equipped with a cooling system," according to city documents.

However, the state of California has been adding more battery storage to its grid to help prevent rotating outages. For example, the California grid held strong last year despite one of the most extreme heat events in September history. The state has grown its fleet of batteries more than 10-fold in the past two years, according to the L.A. Times.

In addition, new air conditioning units are more energy efficient than older units, which means more air conditioners won't strain the grid as much as it would have in the past, said Jeff Monford, senior advisor of investor relations for utility Southern California Edison.

"The grid is robust, reliable and ready," Monford said.


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