April 7, 2010 8:38PM

Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

record‐​setting heat wave has settled on the Beltway this week, resulting in my thermometer topping the 85°F mark by the time I came into work today.

Did I mention my thermometer is inside my apartment?

“Oh yuck,” you’re probably thinking. “You should get a place with air conditioning.”

But you see, my unit has air conditioning. The problem is that, under Virginia law, it can’t be turned on until May 1.

My apartment is in an older building (1958) with a centralized HVAC system. As a result, the whole building must either be in heating mode or cooling mode. One of the quirks of this system is that it takes a couple of days for it to be converted from one mode to the other.

That physical reality doesn’t jibe well with Virginia law, which requires (in the words of an Arlington County government brochure) that:

Every dwelling unit is … to have heating facilities that are properly maintained and keep all habitable rooms at a temperature of at least 65° during the day and 60° at night during ordinary winter conditions from October 15 — May 1.

The result is that, unless the building superintendent knows for certain that cold‐​weather conditions have ended for the year, a building with a system like mine (which isn’t uncommon) can only be in compliance with Virginia law if it keeps the air conditioning off until May 1. Hence my 85°F apartment.

No doubt, Virginia regulators will explain that such rules are necessary to protect the comfort and safety of apartment residents. But I wonder what they would say about the comfort and safety of the small children who live in my building and who spent the last few nights trying to sleep in 85°F heat?