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Old 11-04-2010, 05:00 PM
13 posts, read 62,688 times
Reputation: 13


We are leasing a condo in NW DC. Upon moving, we found that there were some things that needed attention that we had not noticed prior to signing the lease (for example, the closet appeared to be sturdy, but fell apart after as we were unpacking, and the toilet bowl which we did not think to look inside was extremely stained, some of the plates on the stove were not working...I could go on and on). For the most part, the landlord has avoided to get all these things fixed, or offers to drop off screws for us to fix loose cabinets etc. Neither my boyfriend or I are qualified to do any of this work, but we have tolerated it because we realized that we were locked in with the lease, and because non of these issues made the home uninhabitable. However we do have a strong sewer smell coming from the bathroom. It is not consistent, but we smell it on and off through out the day, every single day. Sometimes its extremely strong and this is embarrassing...We had guests for dinner a few days ago and we could smell it in the dining area...it smelt as though we had set the table in the middle of a dirty public toilet. The condo maintenance crew have come by 3 times and have been unable to solve it. Part of the problem is that on 2 of the 3 occasions they could not smell it, and on the third occasion it was not nearly as strong. They are saying it is probably the actual sink that needs replaced, which would be the responsibility of the landlord. Our landlord does not want to replace it, however unlike other issues we have had, this stench is making the home uninhabitable. We are concerned for our health, as we know that exposure to sewer gases, particularly long term has adverse effects on health. Also it is disrupting our lives. I work from home, and often have to leave, when the smell becomes unbearable and find somewhere else to work. This is extremely inconvenient.
Now, I am wondering what our rights are here in DC as a Tenants. We do not want to wage war against our landlord, but we do not know how else to get this problem sorted. Please help!!
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Old 11-04-2010, 08:02 PM
52 posts, read 183,814 times
Reputation: 66
Besides the obvious solution of consulting with a housing attorney (or depending on your income, perhaps even a Legal Aid attorney) Google "DC tenants rights" and start there. Here are some promising leads I found:

http://ota.dc.gov/ota/cwp/view,a,3,q,573226,otaNav,|33325|.asp (http://ota.dc.gov/ota/cwp/view,a,3,q,573226,otaNav,%7C33325%7C.asp - broken link)
Office of the Tenant Advocate
Conciliation can help landlords and tenants settle their claims without going to a hearing. Both sides have an opportunity to talk things out and clear up misunderstandings with the help of a Conciliator in the Rental Accommodations and Conversions Division (RACD). Conciliation does not require witnesses or lawyers. Even after you file a tenant petition, you may still ask for conciliation before your hearing.
  • Advantages of Conciliation (http://ota.dc.gov/ota/cwp/view,a,3,q,573268,otaNav,%7C33325%7C,.asp#Advantag es - broken link)
  • What Does the Conciliator Do? (http://ota.dc.gov/ota/cwp/view,a,3,q,573268,otaNav,%7C33325%7C,.asp#what - broken link)
  • Problems You Can Conciliate (http://ota.dc.gov/ota/cwp/view,a,3,q,573268,otaNav,%7C33325%7C,.asp#problems - broken link)
  • How to Ask for Conciliation or More Information (http://ota.dc.gov/ota/cwp/view,a,3,q,573268,otaNav,%7C33325%7C,.asp#ASK - broken link)

DC Tenants Advocacy Coalition

TENAC is a non-profit, public service organization dedicated exclusively to tenant interests, tenant rights, and support for rent control in the District of Columbia. We are the only city-wide tenants organization, and we represent all tenants in the District of Columbia.

Edited to add: I'm not sure that you actually have an actionable claim, but talking to experts will help you understand your rights and explore your options.

Last edited by blackonyx03; 11-04-2010 at 09:16 PM..
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Old 11-05-2010, 09:48 AM
13 posts, read 62,688 times
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Thanks, I will definitely check both of them out.
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:35 AM
Location: Washington, DC
2,010 posts, read 3,081,154 times
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Go to the Landlord/Tenant Resource Center at the Court itself. There are lawyers and law students there that offer free legal information. They will tell you exactly how to proceed.

9:15 - 12:00 Mon-Fri

Court Building B
510 4th Street, NW
Room 115

Basically what you are going to want to do is document the necessary repairs, document your request to your landlord to fix the problems and their failure to do so.

If you have all of that, you can sue them for the repairs by filing a complaint with the DC civil actions branch. This complaint can be simply for the repairs to be completed and/or for additional damages (a partial refund of your paid rent).

If you have all of your ducks in a row, you can also just inform your landlord you're going to file a complaint. That might be motivator enough.

I had a really bad landlord, who was the head of litigation for a major law firm. Our windows wouldn't close (ducktapped together) the stairway to the roofdeck had become unbolted from the exterior wall and was barely hanging on, and he was raising our rent more than allowed on a rent controlled apartment. I went to the Resource Center, and got all of the documents together, let him know what I was going to do, and he decided to just pay my roommates and I to leave (after a healthy amount of attempting to threaten me/my career etc, real nice guy).

Either way, you're going to want to get a new place ASAP. Bad landlords don't become good ones just because you're on the right side of the law.
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Old 11-05-2010, 11:30 AM
13 posts, read 62,688 times
Reputation: 13
Thanks KStreetQB, we will definitely make our way to the Landlord/Tenant Resource Center next week. We have made a point to email her in order to make sure we have everything in writing. Even when we speak to her over the phone, we always send a follow up email. We also just learned that Landlords in DC are required to have a Basic Business License to rent, and according to the DCRA website they do not have one.
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Old 11-08-2010, 01:26 AM
3,437 posts, read 2,936,499 times
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good luck, shupie. i have had the worst, most inconsiderate landlords and your situation hits a chord with me. im rooting for you - youre paying good money to live there!
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Old 11-12-2010, 07:59 AM
13 posts, read 62,688 times
Reputation: 13
Originally Posted by szug-bot View Post
good luck, shupie. i have had the worst, most inconsiderate landlords and your situation hits a chord with me. im rooting for you - youre paying good money to live there!
Thanks szug-bot. How have you dealt with your landlords in the past? Its unfortunate that you can never tell how bad a landlord is until you have already signed a lease. We thought she was great when we first met her, but the tune changed once we were locked into the lease. If there were no financial consequences for for moving out, we would give our notice immediately and move out as son as possible.
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