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After woman died in hot apartment, Baton Rouge councilman wants to mandate A/C at rental properties

1 year 1 week 3 days ago Monday, July 10 2023 Jul 10, 2023 July 10, 2023 11:00 PM July 10, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Death investigators believe the recent stretch of overbearing heat likely played a role in killing a woman who was found dead without a working air conditioner in her rental apartment.

Sharon Johnson, 67, was found dead July 2 in her apartment on Hanks Drive.

Johnson's apartment, No. 38 on the second floor of the Kean Place apartment complex, had a missing window air conditioning unit. The coroner's office ruled her death an accident, saying she died due to a heart condition "exacerbated by heat exposure."

The heat index for that week was more than 103 degrees.

Tangy Miller told WBRZ that Johnson had been paying rent months before she moved in. When she realized the apartment didn't have an air conditioner, she contacted the landlords. Miller said they charged Johnson $100 for a window unit, but she never received it. 

"Whoever told this lady they were bringing her an air conditioner and didn't might as well put a gun to her head. They dropped the ball on this," Johnson's friend Tangy Miller said.

"People take advantage of people that can't do anything but what they're doing, and that's the elderly. Sometimes people are naive like 'Oh she's going to bring it, she's going to bring it.' No, she died in her bed waiting for her to bring it," Miller said.

Residents said the complex has its fair share of problems, run by unreliable landlords who don't seem to care.

"The place still has some mold on the inside of the walls. They had a man who stayed here and fell off the stairs. My air conditioner has caught on fire. They can at least come out and cut the grass instead of having raccoons everywhere knocking on our doors. It just needs to be fixed," a resident who wished to remain anonymous said. 

That's why Councilman Darryl Hurst and the Metro Council are working to change the laws, making air conditioning a requirement for any person who wishes to rent out their space.

"This could've been prevented if there was a law in place that mandated that some sort of air conditioning unit be in the home and properly maintained. So we're looking into how we can do that," Hurst said.

WBRZ reached out several times to the property managers of the complex but never received a response.

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