My rented basement apartment flooded and I can't live there anymore. What next?
August 8, 2012 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I rent a basement apartment in Washington, DC in a neighborhood that recently experienced serious, repeated dirty water flooding due to issues with the water system (specifically, Bloomingdale). I evacuated amidst the first of three floods and I haven't lived there since. I don't believe I can move back in, so I'd like some help understanding what I am supposed to do next.

Thankfully, I have renter's insurance and will be able to recover from the minor belongings that were ruined. I am looking for a place to live but am settled somewhere until Sept 1 for now. I also have an emergency backup plan if I don't find something in time.

90% of my belongings have been in storage on my insurance's dime since 7/10 and I moved out the remaining goods on 8/5 when I told my landlord that the damage was too extensive - and the risk of re-flooding too high - for me to consider moving back in.

He accepted this pretty readily, but we have yet to discuss the financial aspects.

1) I paid for the entire month of July but only lived there for 10 days. Am I due a refund?

2) Does my landlord have cause to sue me for August rent? I didn't give him 30 days' notice because I had planned on moving back in until I realized how extensive the damage was. He hasn't brought it up, and I don't plan to. Right now, I don't believe the apartment is suitable for anyone to live in. He has had it professionally cleaned several times, but there is water damage and mildew on the walls and a persistent damp smell.

Note: I know neither I nor my landlord can legally use my security deposit (which is equal to 1 month's rent) as my final month's rent.

I have contacted the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) and was told that I was not due a refund for July and would have to pay August rent because this issue was not my landlord's fault and he can't prevent it - this was my gut feeling but not what non-DC lawyers in my personal life were telling me.

I contacted the DC Tenant's Advocacy Coalition (TENAC) and was told that I probably was due a refund for July and was not responsible for August. They then told me to call OTA because they could not take on my case.

What would you do next?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (3 answers total)
Hi, neighbor -- sorry to hear that you were among the unlucky folks that were affected by the flooding. Why not bring your case to the attention of our councilmember, Kenyan McDuffie, and see what additional information or assistance his office can provide?
posted by evoque at 10:18 AM on August 8, 2012

I think this really depends if the temporary housing is provided by your landlord or not. I don't owe any rent if he is not proving you with the housing.
posted by zeikka at 10:27 AM on August 8, 2012

Be sure to contact your landlord and use certified mail to insure that he gets it.

Dear Landlord,

Well that was a thing, wasn't it? I am writing to notify you officially that as of the flood of July 10 that the apartment is uninhabitable and that I have found other lodging. Since I am unable to avail myself of the premisis due to the damage, please refund the remainder of July's rent and my security deposit to me at this address:



You never know, you just might get it. You should for sure get the security deposit.

Your landlord should have insurance for just such a contingency. You can always take him/her to small claims if they don't send the dough.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:27 AM on August 8, 2012

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