Letter from A Sick Renter

House from the Letter Below
House from the Letter Below

Here is a letter I received from a tenant whose housing was getting him sick. His landlord hopefully does the right thing and gets a license and an inspection … and gets his house cleaned up. This situation is exactly what we are hoping to eliminate by putting the information, data and recommendations in your hands. We are going after this landlord, who will remain nameless for now, to ensure this doesn’t happen to the next tenant. 

Hello Mr. Rupert,

I would greatly appreciate your help. I rented the basement apartment at (XXXX) Vermont Avenue NW and moved in September 8 2008. I live in Cambridge, MA and was coming down to D.C. for a 10 week fellowship with the (XXXXX), and signed a 3 month lease with a thousand dollar security deposit.

Soon after moving in, I started experiencing breathing difficulties.

I had worsening asthma like symptoms and coughing. I woke up in the morning feeling terrible and, interestingly enough, I would leave for work and would feel fine by the end of the day. I am in pretty good shape, so this is pretty unusual for me, and very upsetting. I originally thought that I was either allergic to something in the DC area, but on consulting a few MD friends in the area, I found that air quality in basement apartments was a likely cause.

I finally decided to spend the night on a friend’s floor, about 5 blocks away, and woke up the next morning with no breathing difficulties at all. After spending a total of 2 weeks in the apartment, I had to move out, and found a place at (XXXXX) Massachussetts Avenue beginning September 26th. I actually wound up renting two places concurrently, which was expensive.

I spent some time trying to get my security deposit back, but I got no response from the landlord, (XXXXXXXX), despite multiple phone calls and emails. A couple of days ago, I found your website and after mentioning the licensing issue, I was able to get a response from (XXXXXXX). He said he had initiated the licensing process. He said a number of things, at first he said that I broke the lease and thus he was entitled to keep the security deposit. He later said he was considering the idea of returning the deposit if I signed some sort of paperwork saying I wouldn’t mention this to anyone or pursue it further legally, or something vague along those lines.

In any case, I started to feel guilty about the idea of simply pursuing my security deposit and letting someone else move in there and get sick. Of course, I would love to get my security deposit back, and even the last week’s rent, but I also would like to make sure that a future tenant is not exposed to whatever made me ill.

I would appreciate your advice on how to proceed. I have some of the emails I sent and some other records as well, if they would be of help.

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