Housing Complex

Just How Much Crap Should One Renter Be Willing to Tolerate?

Okay folks, there's another Ask Housing Complex coming out in this week's issue. My response is in final draft form. It will be placed in layout sometime later today most likely. And either Wednesday or Thursday of this week, I'll post the entire thing here on the blog.

But before that happens, I'd like to know what other people think about this particularly lengthy, exasperating concern. Here's the gist: A lady living in Dupont decides she's willing to put up with annoyance after annoyance—and laziness and negligence bordering on abuse from her landlord and manager—because she can't bear the thought of moving.

How much would you put up with before deciding to move? Would you have split in March? In June? Would you have tolerated all of it? Here's the complaint:

I’ve lived in a large Dupont basement studio since 2006 because of its location, quiet atmosphere, pet friendliness and affordable rent ($1,000/month utilities included with free washer & dryer in the building. I don’t want/can’t afford to move, but the last 10 months have been miserable.

From January through end of March (11 weeks) there was no hot water in the apartment for showering or cooking. I documented the situation, made multiple calls/emails to the (out-of-state) landlord (Edit) and the DC management company (Edit). After 1.5 months of no response, I reported both of them to [a city department.] Reparative action was only taken by [the management company] in March. My rent was never pro-rated and no reason given as to why the repairs were not made in a timely matter other than the expense, especially because the brownstone is historic.

In June, I came home one day to find all my medicine from my medicine cabinet cleared out. Since [the management company] & the building manager were the only ones besides myself who had access & a history of entering my apartment before without advanced notice & some of the medicine included prescription painkillers, I promptly had the locks professionally rekeyed. I did not give a copy of the new key to my landlord or [the management company.]

In September, my oven/stove stopped working and my back entrance door started splintering off in chunks. Calls, emails, written notices did nothing. Five weeks later, it took my bottom lock/doorknob finally falling out of my door for my landlord to call a locksmith to repair the door temporarily. It’s now mid-November and my stove isn’t repaired/replaced. Unless I microwave food, I can’t cook for myself in my apartment. Compounding my displeasure are newer tenants who do laundry in the weeknight’s early morning hours (1 -3 a.m.). The washer/dryer share a wall with my apartment and can be heard loud and clear. I cannot sleep with all the whirring and banging.

I’ve been paying rent on time this entire time. It kills me that I’m paying for an apartment that I feel isn’t habitable most of the time and the money goes to a management company that doesn’t even have an after hours number/contact!

My understanding of DC law is that the only way I can pressure my landlord/management company at this point would be having the court establish an escrow account to legally withhold rent. I can’t just stop paying rent for a non-working oven/stove or lack of hot water, right? Is there any other way to hold [the management company]/landlord responsible without going through the time, hassle and expense of court? I have friends who are lawyers, but none of them specialize in landlord/tenant issues—or are admitted to the DC bar.

In an ideal situation, the issues I speak of would be resolved promptly, effectively and I’d be compensated for the troubles caused by their gross negligence. Am I asking for too much?

  • Mony

    She can stop paying rent for no hot water definitely. They'll have to sue her in L-T Court but the court can order the repairs done. I would definitely have left by June since $1000/month for a basement Dupont studio isn't that big of a steal.

  • Keith

    This lady needs to grow/borrow a pair of balls. How do you expect your landlord/management company to respond to your claims if you're all bark and no bite. Google "pro-bono landlord/tenant lawyer" and take your landlord and management company to court. If I new I had a tenant that was going to pay on time and grin and bear it if I was giving him/her the shaft I'd be slow to getting around to making expensive repairs too.

  • hill dude

    I had a similar problem with a landlord in Logan Circle a few years ago, involving a hot water heater that died followed by a refrigerator. I only waited three days on the hot water heater. At that point, after calling and emailing twice a day for three days, I phoned the property management company to let them know I was checking into a hotel until it was resolved.

    I faxed them a copy of the first night's bill the next morning, with a notice that I was deducting this amount from my rent payment that month. They said they wouldn't pay it, so I called a plumber and had a new hot water heater installed that afternoon. That month, I sent my rent payment for the month's rent less the new hot water heater, installation costs, and the night in the hotel. They sent me a letter saying my rent payment was incomplete. I sent them a letter informing them that I would be suing them for damages. They called and said they were just writing everything off and forgetting about it.

    The fridge later died. I phoned, told them it was dead, and told them they had 24 hours to have a new fridge in my apartment, or I was replacing it myself. I did so when the new one wasn't there the next day. Again, they threatened to sue and try to evict me.

    When they actually talked to a lawyer, he said what I already knew - go ahead, but DC courts almost ALWAYS side with a tenant, especially when we're maintaining a reasonable standard of living. They dropped the entire thing, and said nothing when I told them to apply my security deposit to my last month's rent, since I knew they were going to keep it anyway. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF!!

  • South Bronx

    I worked in the South Bronx years ago with a community organization that worked with tenants to set up escrow accounts for matters like this. In DC, there are better options that as Mony said favor tenants every time. Don't take this! Yes, you have to exert yourself to file a claim and work through a process, but you should not just accept it or move out without doing anything against the landlord. Come on, lady, show your tits!

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