Baby, It’s Cold Outside
December 5, 2007 9:58 AM   Subscribe

In the mornings, there’s no hot water in my apartment – same thing happened lest year and the year before. Management doesn’t react. Help!

Winter has officially started in Washington, DC, today, with the first snow. What else has started? The hot water shortage in my apartment building. When I went to take a shower this morning the water was at best lukewarm. Now, I am dreading the rest of the winter. The same thing happened last year and the year prior. After 7:45 there’s no hot showers, they’re at best lukewarm and at worst plain cold. This happens every (other) day and is seriously pissing me off. I have complained to the building management last year and due to the intensity of my annoyance I requested some sort of rent refund – they explained that they had problems with the boilers, this and that, blah blah blah and essentially told me they would get back to me regarding the refund. They never did, the winter ended, I let it go. This year I am not willing to let it go. It’s difficult enough, getting out of my bed each morning without having to imagine a cold shower.

My apartment building is in the District itself. It’s a large building with 150+ units. So, help me, what are my options here – notifying DCRA (what’s the process and the likely outcome)? Can I get any of my rent back for the unnecessary suffering (cold water is torture)? Any help or ideas would be greatly appreciated as I’m sitting here grumpy and unshowered.
posted by barrakuda to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a tenant's rights organization you can talk to? Lots of places have laws that govern the suitability of a living space and I'd imagine having hot water is a common need in states with winter weather.
posted by rhizome at 10:10 AM on December 5, 2007

Hot water is one of those "must have" items, in terms of habitability. Most likely you'll end up paying your rent into escrow and if the court finds in your favor, you'll get some of it back.
posted by electroboy at 10:18 AM on December 5, 2007

Welcome to my world. No heat and very little hot water--it's cause of the boilers. This has happened for the past three years and we complain and others complain and nothing is ever done because it's an old building and my management company doesn't care.

You can keep bothering your management, but it's doubtful they'll do anything now, since they haven't for the past few years.

My advice (which I should follow) is to move.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:42 AM on December 5, 2007

Straight off of Consumerist's presses, Landlord-tenant laws for every state.

Here's DC's [PDF]. This gives you the correct format in which to nofity the landlord of issues as well as what can happen if they fail to correct them.
posted by at 10:48 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

From the District of Columbia Housing Code:

606.1 Each residential building shall be provided with a water heating facility which is properly connected with the hot water lines of the required fixtures, and which is capable of providing sufficient hot water at a temperature of not less than one hundred twenty degrees Fahrenheit (120 F.) at those fixtures to meet normal demands.

606.2 Where the hot water heating facility is not under the control of the occupant of any habitation, the owner or licensee of that residential building shall provide and maintain a continuous supply of running hot water to meet normal needs.
posted by chiababe at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2007

i guess one of the questions i have is whether i can demand a reduction in rent for this - taking into consideration that they are not fulfilling their part of the bargain - why should i pay them the full amount? i will talk to the management tomorrow morning, but i'm already devising all sorts of plans on what to do if they continue to be sucky just like they always are.
posted by barrakuda at 12:15 PM on December 5, 2007

You can always ask, but from what I can see in the code and in's link (read this, it is awesome and helpful for knowing the process for grievances against your landlord), unless your lease indicates otherwise, they are not required to do so. They can be fined heavily, however, by the city for not complying with inspectors.

A reasonable landlord would probably give you some sort of concession for the inconvenience, but since this is the third winter you've had this problem, you don't seem to have a reasonable landlord.
posted by chiababe at 12:39 PM on December 5, 2007

Have you tried showering at night?
posted by klangklangston at 7:17 PM on December 5, 2007

I had the same problem here in Virginia. Last year, we got together with our immediate neighbors (left, right, below) and we wrote a joint letter to the landlord to inform them that we would be reporting them to the County's Community Code Enforcement division if they didn't fix it. That worked for us, as it hasn't been an issue since. I guess they figured that it made sense for them costwise to fix the issue rather than deal with code enforcement inspectors.

It might be worth a try to tell your landlord first, and if that doesn't work you should go ahead and report them.
posted by gemmy at 8:57 PM on December 5, 2007

klangklangston - i could shower at night - water is mostly hot in the evenings - but this is not the point. the point is that we should have access to hot water everyday, and especially in the morning, when you want to jump out of your bed and warm up.
posted by barrakuda at 9:40 AM on December 6, 2007

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