We have a problem. Twice in the past month, my apartment has lost heat. Both times, I called DCI and filed a complaint. The first time, I never heard back from them, and my landlord, SHA, took five days to fix it despite the legally required 48 hour response time. They acted very non-chalant about it, saying it could take much longer, and there was nothing anyone could do about it, so I should just be patient. The second time, when I told SHA, I warned them that they faced citation and/or fine if they didn’t fix it in 48 hours. I didn’t hear back from DCI for five days. This time, SHA found the ability to fix the heat in 48 hours.
But in neither case did DCI even inspect my apartment. In neither case did they respond within the 48 hour limit. They never contacted SHA, so the 48 hour clock never started ticking. Had I not gotten lucky, there would have been no enforcement of the law whatsoever.
I fully expect my heat to go out again this winter because SHA is cheap and values nothing less than their disabled, impoverished tenants. I highly doubt they fixed the heat any more than necessary to keep it running a couple more weeks. I shouldn’t have to take my chances with DCI. They are not doing their job or enforcing the law. With no enforcement, tenants don’t really have any rights. And I’m one of the lucky ones whose native language is English, who can write articulately, who doesn’t have to worry about deportation, who knows my rights, who has professional experience working in housing and homelessness, and who can make savvy decisions about what scares landlords into following the law. This is totally unacceptable and even immoral. Please help.
What tenants really need is the no-brainer right to repair and deduct. It works, and it gives renters some agency over their own living situation.
[Written to Seattle Councilwoman Lisa Herbold, Chair of the housing committee and huge help to tenants in her district or not; my own Councilman Bruce Harrell couldn’t care less]