ASK HOUSING COMPLEX: My Landlord Ignores My Requests for Months—What Do I Do?
Earlier this week, I posted a less edited version of this complaint, asking readers how they would handle this situation. Anyway, here's my advice on the matter:
I’ve lived in a Dupont studio since 2006 because of its location, pet friendliness, affordable rent ($1,000/month with utilities included) and free washer and 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, there was no hot water in the apartment for showering or cooking. After 1.5 months of no response, I reported both of them to the DCRA. Reparative action was taken only in March.
In June, I came home one day to find all my medicine from my medicine cabinet cleared out. Since the building managers were the only ones besides myself who had access and a history of entering my apartment before without advanced notice and some of the medicine included prescription painkillers, I promptly had the locks professionally re-keyed.
In September, my oven/stove stopped working and my back entrance door started splintering off in chunks. Calls, e-mails, 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. My stove wasn’t repaired/replaced for months, leaving only the microwave for heating food. Compounding my displeasure are newer tenants who do laundry in the weeknight’s early morning hours. The washer/dryer share a wall with my apartment—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.
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?
—Pained by Missing Painkillers
Quick question: What the hell are you still doing there? Are you waiting for pieces of your kitchen cabinets, all your door frames, and windowsills to start “splintering off in chunks” too? For the drywall to grow soggy and turn your walls into white clay? To have your microwave die as well, imposing an automatic raw foods diet?
It’s possible that one day, your landlord and manager will force you to re-key the apartment so they can get in and steal all your furniture. Would you leave then? Perhaps you’ll need to be forced out: The nighttime whirring and banging will send you into such a fit of rage that your fellow tenants will demand you are removed from the premises. But, man, if you haven’t cracked already—and really, in all seriousness, that’s very impressive composure—it seems your time will come.
Sure, you could stick around, withhold rent, wait to be sued by your landlord in Superior Court’s Landlord and Tenant Branch and hope for some fixes and some compensation. (Most tenant lawyers seem to agree
that this is the fastest way to fight terrible building conditions.)
But, really, don’t do that. Wrap up your lease and just leave. Dupont Circle isn’t worth 10 miserable months. Try Mount Pleasant. Capitol Hill. Columbia Heights. I just checked Craigslist, and there are listings for one-bedroom places within your price range in all these neighborhoods. If you want to recoup some money for the loss of enjoyment of your apartment, you could always go to small claims court (as long as you’re asking for no more than $5,000.) Just document the various problems and delayed repairs in your claim. The entire process will most likely take three to four months.