DALLAS — The City of Dallas has received more than 400 complaints about air conditioning units failing at apartment complexes and rental properties.
It's that time of year when triple-digit heat and no working air conditioning units can cause tempers to flare.
"We get about 1,500 calls a year for it being too hot," said James Martin, the director of code compliance for Dallas.
The complaints normally start in April and go until September. The mercury reached 104 degrees Monday, and phones at City Hall were ringing off the hook.
Residents at the St. Francis Apartments near Buckner Boulevard definitely had reason to complain. The A/C unit crashed and burned Friday night after midnight, thanks to thieves who stole the copper wiring and tubing from the breaker and the chiller.
"It's just bad over here," said George Bell, wiping the sweat from his brow. "My nurse just left. She checked my blood pressure and it is way high. The heat is making me sick."
Bell is a triple heart bypass patient, and is concerned about his health. His shirt looked as if someone had poured a gallon of water on him.
"That's my sweat," he said. "This is me from just coming out of the house. I come outside to cool off."
We found Bell and dozens of other tenants sitting outside their apartment units in the shade, trying to catch a cool breeze.
"I'm five months pregnant and it's miserable," said Marcia Brown, who stayed at a hotel room with her husband and children Sunday night, because she said it was more than 90 degrees in her apartment.
"I'm concerned about my baby I'm carrying," she continued. "And, I made my other children go sleep away from home."
Other residents were found sitting in their cars.
"Just to keep cool," explained resident Anthony Smith. "I'm riding around and burning gas just to keep cool."
The City of Dallas advises residents to call 311 if the hot air problem persists. However that line is a last resort, after first trying to work with apartment managers.
City of Dallas code compliance inspectors can step in and slap landlords with citations for failing to fix a broken A/C unit in a timely manner.
"We want people to talk to their apartment manager first about fixing the air conditioner," Martin said. "If they feel as if the air has been out too long, they can give us a call."
If it is 85 degrees or more inside an apartment on a triple-digit day, that is a violation.
"If the apartment complex is in violation, we give them a notice and they have 72 hours to fix the problem," Martin said. "We can extend that time frame if we determine the complex is doing its due diligence and needs an extension."
St. Francis Apartments' air conditioning problem was fixed by Monday evening, but it wasn't cool immediately. It takes the repaired chiller up to 18 hours to cool off the apartment units. The owner of the complex said it cost him $10,000 to fix the problem that copper thieves caused.
Residents who cannot afford an A/C unit in Dallas can call the Dallas County Health and Human Services hotline at 214-819-6001. Residents who are elderly, disabled, or low income must meet eligibility requirements.
Fort Worth residents are asked to call 211, and officials will help determine which program can help low-income residents get an air conditioning unit if theirs is broken.
It's going to be a long, hot summer, and city officials want to make sure everyone stays healthy and cool in the Texas heat.