(WSVN) – What would you do if you had to live for weeks without air conditioning? Residents at one South Florida building don’t have to imagine; they can explain it, and they want it fixed, as they told Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
You know it’s hot outside, nearly 90 degrees every day, and if you live at Hillcrest East Number 26 Inc., it’s the same temperature inside.
Claudia Villatoro: “Inside the house, probably is about 85 and 90 degrees right now.”
It’s not just Claudia’s condo. Every single unit in the 11-story building is scorching hot.
Aida Ortiz: “Right now, the temperature right here is 88 degrees in this apartment. I can’t do it, I just can’t.”
It’s so hot because the motor on the cooling tower that air conditions the entire building broke on July 5.
In a note to residents, the board wrote it could take weeks to get the parts to fix it.
Aida Ortiz: “We shouldn’t be waiting eight weeks for an air conditioning to be fixed.”
It’s a 55 and older building. You know what would happen in your home if your air conditioner broke.
Leonor worries about her mother Aida.
Leonor Ortiz: “I am drenched in sweat as I sit here. Anything over 20 minutes is – you just can’t sit here. It’s not livable.”
Aida in turn worries about her elderly neighbors.
Aida Ortiz: “Most of us are 70 years old. We can’t do this. I have places to go. Sure, I have my daughter, but a lot of people here don’t, and it’s very hard for them.”
The condo association does not have a property manager; it’s run by the volunteer board. They sent out a note saying they were working on resolving the problems.
Claudia Villatoro: “And in the letter says, ‘We don’t know, we don’t know, we don’t know.’”
One solution is rent a temporary cooling tower for $140,000, which would cost each owner $1,000, but the board didn’t vote on that.
Aida Ortiz: “I think that we should have a meeting and have everybody vote about the $1,000.”
Claudia says some retired residents on a fixed income don’t have the $1,000.
Aida bought a portable AC, but it barely cools a room.
Many other residents have a fan to circulate the hot air or a window open, hoping for a breeze. In a condo where it’s too hot to cook a meal, too uncomfortable to sleep in a bed, as the summer heat bakes them.
Claudia Villatoro: “The ambulance has been taking a couple of people out of here for health issues.”
Leonor Ortiz: “Cooling is a necessity in Florida, especially at 77 years old, for long periods of time.”
Aida Ortiz: “All we want is air conditioning, for Pete’s sake. We are not asking for anything else.”
Well, Howard, do people living in the South Florida heat have a legal right to air conditioning?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “No, but in a condo, the board is obligated to maintain the common elements, like the chilling tower. However, if it breaks down due to no one’s fault, the board has to fix it as quickly as possible, and the cost has to be shared by every resident. What’s fixing it quickly? That’s up to the board to determine.”
We emailed the board and called their president. We were told they wouldn’t comment.
Then last Friday, the board president Mark Roth called to tell me they found a contractor who was able to repair the tower and get the AC running while they wait for the parts.
But Aida’s AC still didn’t work.
Aida Ortiz: “No, definitely not acceptable, and I imagine that is not acceptable for many people.”
Claudia says her AC is not working properly, either.
The board president said the cooling tower is only working at 25%, that some people have AC and some don’t.
People like Aida with no AC, who after three weeks are tired of these hot steamy apartments.
Aida Ortiz: “I just want to be able to, you know, to come home and be able to breathe and do what I normally do, normal life.”
Imagine your apartment, your condo, your house at 85 or 90 degrees for at least three weeks. I don’t want to imagine that. But if the board says they can’t get the parts and can’t afford to rent a chiller, each resident has to try to get by.
We will keep an eye on Aida and the other residents to see how long it takes to fix their AC problem.
Met someone full of hot air? Don’t get overheated, cool down and talk to us, to see if we can find a comfortable solution.
With this Help me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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