From the Forum – My basement bedroom in the house I rent is not legal?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Elvert Barnes

My basement bedroom in the house I rent is not legal?

“I recently discovered that the basement “bedroom” I’ve been living in for the past year is technically illegal (ceiling height of support beam about 6’2″). Our landlord is absolutely horrible; breaks rules, genuinely rude to us (5 of us in mid-20s), fails to deposit our rent checks on time, doesn’t give full 24 hours before she shows up (even if she does give us notice!), keeps the house furnished with her furniture and demands us to pay for her ancient furniture that breaks — I could go on. Is there anything I can do with this information? I spoke with a family friend who is a lawyer who looked over our lease agreement and said there are a lot of legal problems with it. She even writes things in pen to add to the lease. My question is: would it even be of any benefit to me to act on this? This woman is so out of touch (in her 80s, at least) and has made for a not-so-great living situation. Thanks.”

You can see all forum topics and add your own here. If you are having trouble uploading your question please email me at princeofpetworth(at)gmail Please Note this is NOT an events calendar.

69 Comment

  • What exactly is your end game? To get some of your rent back? To punish the landlord? For her to bring her unit up to code? It doesn’t sound like you want to move (even though the situation sounds miserable) – so I don’t know what you’re really looking for.

    Were it me, I’m not exactly sure what I would do. If I could afford to move I would move and possibly report the illegal basement. If I couldn’t afford to move I would stay there and not report. I’m not sure what happens if you report an illegal rental and the powers that be agree with you – would you be forced to move at that point anyway?

    I have sympathy for you but I’m not sure what advice to provide.

    • justinbc

      +1, I can’t really tell what this person wants to be accomplished, so it’s rather difficult on how to advise them.

    • Interesting that OP has addressed every question on here except this one. Sounds like he just wants to complain.

  • Well, if you call the housing authorities they may well agree with you that the space is illegal and then what does that get you? She is not going to be able to change that overnight.

    Also, if you have a problem with the a low ceiling height, ancient furniture, an aging landlord and handwritten clauses in the lease, why did you move there in the first place?

    • I wasn’t aware how terrible the landlord was before moving in. I don’t think she realizes how bad of a landlord she is either though.

  • You have a deadline for when someone you pay must deposit the check you gave them? It sounds like the landlord may not be the only difficult person.
    Anyway, instead of asking strangers on a blog, you can always ask the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate.

    • This is a STRETCH but I do have a friend whose landlord just doesn’t cash their checks — and checks expire after a certain number of days (90, usually). It is possible that she’s not cashing them in a timely manner, then either cashing them all at once or asking for a new check….

    • I think everyone has a deadline for when they want large checks deposited. My grandmother in-law will call me if I haven’t deposited a birthday check after a week.

      I had a landlord that would hold rent checks for months. Once he held a check for over a year and ended up loosing it. It is crazy annoying.

    • Her sister owns the other half of the duplex and deposits their checks on the 1st of every month. I see it as being a responsible landlord… maybe that’s just me then.

  • What are you trying to accomplish here? Reporting the 80 year old landlord isn’t really going to benefit you and to be honest, its only going to make things even more difficult for her.

  • Mug of Glop

    She added things to the lease after you signed it? It sounds like you could just ignore all those parts. Is the demand for furniture rental/repair part of the lease? It sounds like it isn’t, and you can ignore that part, too. Then she’s just essentially storing stuff in your apartment, and you can demand yourself that she gets rid of it. Want to move? Sounds like you could report this and get your area declared uninhabitable and your lease effectively voided. If your problems are actually more complicated than we can infer here, and you want something changed, you should obtain proper legal advice.
    (I’m definitely not a lawyer and have no first-hand experience with any of this, so I have no idea what kind of wacky statutes affect contract law and lease whatnots in the District, nor how effective any of these courses of action might be.)

    • She said we broke a $1500 chair and demanded my roommate pay $500 for it… we offered to get it appraised but it “disappeared” (she took it away). Still demanding $500.

  • Here’s your course of actions. Don’t give her any money for anything other than rent. Move out. If she tries to take your security deposit, send her a demands letter and then file suit at small claims court for your security deposit. At the mandatory mediation, start off by asking if she has a license to rent. If she says no, she will be strongly encouraged to settle. If not, proceed with the case in front of a judge. You will get a judgment, and then you’ll have to collect. It sucks, but so it goes.

    I don’t see any scenario where you get punitive damages.

  • wait, why is your landlord not depositing your rent checks on time a problem/complaint?

    Just FYI, most of the basement rentals in DC are illegal. I rented in 2 different basement apts – one in a rowhouse, one in a condo building – for 4 years, and both were illegal for different reasons. The first one we had the same type of landlord that you just described, with low ceilings; the second one only had one entrance/exit out (you have to have a secondary way out of a basement). However, both of them were really cheap and in good locations, so you have to weigh whether or not the “illegality” aspect is worth fighting. If your landlord is just rude and shows up without telling you advance sometimes, and the ceilings are a few inches short of a legal rental, but you have a good price, it kind of evens itself out…

    • Not the OP, but it’s annoying for budgetary reasons (to me).

      • +1 Also not the OP, It’s annoying for managing personal cash flow! I could easily see how the OP would get annoyed if it wasn’t in a predictable time window each month. Otherwise, I agree with BK Petworth Citizen, is it really worth fighting?

        • justinbc

          LOL, I’m terrible about cashing checks on time (from friends & family, all our tenants pay directly to the bank account). I am always getting “friendly” reminders because sometimes I’ll let them sit around for months before I remember.

      • OP here. Yes, exactly this reason.

        • Then just send her an e-check by Paypal. It goes immediately out of your account and then she can cash it or leave it in her Paypal account until the end of time and it won’t be any of your business. All of my tenants pay by Paypal either direct or through an e-check.

          I just wish my tenants would pay on time. They always push it towards the last day of the “5 day grace period before it is late”. Really regretting putting that in the lease. Tenants really take advantage of landlords in D.C.

          • Does this send a physical check or just go into a Paypal account? She doesn’t use computers so I doubt she has an account…

          • She doesn’t need to have a Paypal account but it would benefit her to do so. If she wants a check, she can “withdraw” it and they send her a check. But at that point, it really is beyond your concern. Technically it just creates a temp bucket of money and she can decide how she wants to withdraw it, transfer it, or just let it sit until the end of time.

            Alternatively you can do the same with most banks and credit unions if you want to use their bill pay service. They will send her a physical check.

            One thing to keep in mind here: the law is fuzzy about whether rent is accepted upon the day you send it through an electronic means OR wether it is the day that the landlord actually has the funds cleared. There is a delay. So when in doubt, send it 3-4 BUSINESS days beforehand.

            And be aware that she may get charge a processing fee from Paypal if you pay by credit card. So she legally can bill you back for that fee. When in doubt, link you checking account and pay by withdrawing from that account. Paypal does not charge for those type of transactions as they make their money from credit card processing fees.

    • Yeah, a past tenant of mine semi-complained about this once. (I thought I was doing her a favor, since she was a federal employee who’d been furloughed and wasn’t getting her regular biweekly paycheck… but I guess I should’ve explained that up front.)

    • Lots of people don’t keep a checkbook anymore. So when they see their available balance long after they’ve written a check, they assume that’s what’s actually available (not accounting for the outstanding check). I couldn’t live like that, but people do.

      • HaileUnlikely

        When they overdraw, that’s on them, not on their landlord who didn’t whip out their iphone and use their bank’s mobile deposit app to deposit it 10 seconds after they received it. In all honesty, I don’t balance my checkbook as often as I used to, but I know that I’m safe because I have several thousand dollars to spare. Back when the balance was like $50 after all bills were paid, and I had to make sure I waited until I deposited X before I could pay Y, I sure as hell kept track to the penny, though.

        • That all being true, it’s also reasonable to expect your landlord to cash your rent check before the next check is due. I’m not sure what OP thinks is “on time,” but it does get annoying to have multiple outstanding rent checks, in addition to other bills and expenses.

          • OP here – I just think if she insists the checks arrive at her house before the 1st, they should be deposited the week of the 1st, not 3 weeks later

          • HaileUnlikely

            I agree that not cashing your check in a timely manner is annoying and inconsiderate – no argument there. I am just saying that the payer not bothering to keep track of the checks that he or she writes does not pass the obligation to cash them quickly onto the payee, and actually citing not bothering to keep a checkbook as justification for asking somebody else to cash their check more quickly is kind of childish.

  • This is worded confusingly, but either she has 5 people living in a basement bedroom (DEFINITELY NOT LEGAL!), or you are renting this room as part of a group house situation?

    I think in the latter case there may be more of a gray area, as some of the requirements for a separately metered basement apartment would not be required if you are leasing the entire house and have been assigned (by mutual agreement with your roommates) the basement room.

    Without knowing what you want (do you want to move? do you want your lease to be voided? do you want money?) it’s hard to say what you should do. If you are living in an illegal rental and you report it you will have to vacate. So if moving is not your immediate end game then sticking it to the landlord may backfire. That said if you are feeling legitimately unsafe in your dwelling it is worth it to move.

    • Agreed–I was under the impression from reading the post that it’s a group house situation and the basement is part of the house. So the basement doesn’t likely have the same requirements that a separate basement rental unit would have. It probably matters for selling purposes in terms of whether the basement room can legally be referred to as a bedroom, but as far as the landlord is concerned, she’s renting the whole house to 5 tenants that are sharing the house as they see fit.
      If this is all a problem, then perhaps your best bet is to move as soon as you can find an alternative & use the legal issues to help you get out of your lease.

    • There are ton of questions here that need answering to know where to begin, starting with this one from lisa. If this is a group house of five people and you happen to be the one in the basement, are all five of you on the lease? Did she rent it as a five bedroom house to you? If you all decided to really rent a four bedroom house and put five people in it then I doubt anything about the basement size matters very much. May not matter much at all if it is a group house and the basement is not a separately leased unit.

    • Sorry — kind of wrote it in a rush and didn’t think it would be published! The basement is part of the house and total rent. It’s one of the 5 bedrooms.

      • Are you sure it is an illegal bedroom? My rowhouse that I rent out in Columbia Heights has 4 bedrooms and one is in a basement. It’s even on the tax records as a 4 bedroom (only 3 on the upper floors and one in the basement).

        So it may be an actual bedroom even with the low ceiling height with D.C.’s blessing. Remember the ceiling height is a newer requirement and only usually comes into place when the basement is being made into a separate rental and not part of the main single family home.

    • You still need to have appropriate egress in each bedroom.

  • I suppose if your goal is to stay there and improve the living situation, the fact that it is an illegal rental could give you leverage. On the other hand, some people (especially older people, in my own experience) do not respond well to ultimatums. And the fact that it’s an illegal rental doesn’t give you a legal right to a non-obnoxious landlady as a remedy. So if you start making demands and her response is “if you don’t like it, report me” you might end up either having to suck it up or call her bluff and (if/when the city does anything) find another place to live.

  • You might want to check out the DC landlord-tenant clinic for some free legal advice. They specialize in this kind of thing.

  • Even with a support beam that’s 6’2″, the ceiling height might not actually be below the requirement — I think it depends whether the majority (not sure of the exact percentage) of the space is the required height (I think 7 feet?).
    Like others, I think your course of action here depends on your goal. Unless you want to move out before your lease is up, there isn’t really any advantage in reporting your landlord. And even if your goal is to move out before your lease is up, you don’t necessarily have to report your landlord to do it — I would recommend giving her 30 or 60 days’ notice, and if she objects, mention the illegality.

  • If you want to stay where you are, there’s no advantage in reporting her; you’ll just have to move out and find a new place to live. You’re not going to be able to magically change her into a different person; her personality and the house are a package deal.
    Other points:
    – Her adding stuff in pen to the lease isn’t a problem as long as she has you sign off on or initial those changes.
    – If she’s offered the house as a furnished rental, then she’s within her rights to seek compensation if you break the furniture. “Ancient” doesn’t necessarily mean “falling apart”; many antiques are much better made than stuff that’s available today.
    – Not sure what your lease says, but leases I’ve seen say that although the landlord will always try to give tenants advance notice if he/she needs to enter the property, but that notice is a courtesy, not a requirement. (I’m not sure if that’s what the standard GCAAR lease for D.C. says.)

  • With respect to one of the comments above, it is in fact perfectly legal to only have one entrance in a basement provided that there is a way of exit out of the bedroom. So your one exit can be through the bedroom. There is no requirement that there must be two exits. Many people think that there is, even some people in the contractor/architectural field. You can get a license from DC with one exit through the bedroom.

  • Habitable spaces in basement are required to have 7′ ceiling. However, keep in mind probably 95+% of basement units and habitable spaces in dc do not meet this requirement. The houses are over 100 years old, and back in the day, basements were meant for storage and utilities, not people. Digging down to add another 6-12″ of ceiling height in a basement can literally cost tens of thousands – which most landlords cannot afford, and one has to seriously question if the cost is worth the benefits. So if you are ok living in a basement, your likelihood of finding a legal basement unit is pretty slim in the city. Obsessing over legality of ceiling height is not going to help you in any way. I think for the conditions you are describing, you should expect to get a good deal in terms of the rent. If you are unhappy, then look around and see if you can find better options out there. Your landlord sounds eccentric and not quite together, but hardly a nasty or mean one – there are plenty of those around too.

    • Right on. 7′ minimum, 6’8″ for bath and kitchen and support beam in the basement needs to be no lower than 6’8″
      Not helpful to the OP, but random helpful info. In some basements it can be much cheaper to add a bench foundation rather than dig out everything wall to wall. Basically, you would start digging 3 feet in from the wall and only go down 3 feet. As long as your 7+ foot space is 1/3 of the total area you’re good. While you still need an engineer, this avoids the astronomical expense of underpinning the foundation and can often allow the sewer pipes to be left in place.

    • Ok, that makes sense. Thanks for your response.

    • Honestly, she IS nasty and mean… one time a man walking his dog came by and said he lived in our house in the 90s and asked “does that old lady still pick out one person to absolutely hate?” Yep.

    • maxwell smart

      Hmm…my basement apartment is only 6′-8″ BUT I my landlady is awesome, I have a pretty sweet deal, and I’ve learned that in order to stretch in the morning I can’t do it standing up, so I’m not complaining about my cozy cave.

  • Blithe

    If the 5 of you rented the entire house together, it’s up to you to collectively decide how to use the space. You could, for example, decide to share the non-basement bedrooms that are clearly legal, if the fact that the basement room doesn’t meet the requirements for a separate, legal, apartment bothers you. As others have said, I’m not clear on your goal or what type of “benefit” you would like, so I’d be interested in having more information about your situation.

  • OP here — Sorry that my post is not worded terribly well.
    Few things:
    1. We all love living in this house. Great location, great friends, great neighbors, close to metro. Only problem is that she is just unbearable and cannot be reasoned with. When we mentioned a lawyer looked at her lease she threatened to kick us all out right then.
    2. As of an end game, honestly just wondering if I can get any $ out of her. I don’t think she is going to give me my security deposit back (big crack in my wall, but she hasn’t said anything about it. She’s inspected my room plenty of times, but I think when it comes to renewing the lease or having us leave, she’s going to try to stiff me).
    3. This was my first time moving out of my parents house after college so I wasn’t very familiar with housing laws and tenant rights. So please excuse me for being a bit naive.
    4. It’s May 14 and she still hasn’t deposited our May rent checks. This has happened about 6 times in the past year and is annoying for a bunch of young professionals trying to budget with lower salaries. We would prefer it was on the 1st of the month. Ex. She’ll deposit a check March 20 for the March rent check and then for the April check she’ll deposit it April 1.
    5. Thank you all for your input. I think she’s going to have us all vacate in August and I believe it is 60 days notice so we should find out soon. I’ve talked this over a lot with my roommates and parents. Just wanted to get an outside opinion from people who may know more info than I/parents/roommates do. Thanks!

    • I’ve been there and I can sympathize. But it doesn’t sound like you would want to stay with such a difficult landlord, even if it were an option. And reporting her, even if you’re justified, is just going to make a bad situation that much worse. Talking to the Tenant Advocate about your situation will help protect your rights and make sure your landlord keeps up her end of the bargain. Good luck!

    • FYI she cannot “have you vacate” unless she is going to be occupying the house. In DC you sign a year lease which, after a year, essentially converts automatically to a month to month lease. She probably is not subject to rent control (it depends on the number of units she owns) so I guess she could demand a fortune, but I think there are other things you can do in that case.
      Basically what I’m saying is that if you WANT to keep living there you probably can.
      If you are renting the whole house with other people, not specifically renting the basement as a stand alone unit, then there is nothing illegal about that.

    • Look, you say love living there, so stop stressing and complaining. Most landlords are unreasonable, you just have to learn to ignore them. Most 80 year olds are going to seem unreasonable, too. And all will get upset when you start talking lawyers – everybody does. So deal with it. Being in a business relationship is not about the law – lawyers cost too much money unless your damages are high, and doing it yourself is a waste of your time, unless damages are high. You don’t have damages. So it is about negotiating to get what you need, and ignoring the unreasonableness. All tenants have to do this. You will learn (maybe, in your case, I’m not sure.)

      Because there are places you can go to find out your rights. If you are in DC, you get 90 days notice, and it has to be on a specific form, and it has to be because the owner or a family member of hers is moving back in, or that the place is being/has been sold. Unless she has reason to evict you. And even that takes time. Go learn your rights. And stop trying to get money out of her for stupid stuff.

      I don’t know why everybody stresses about getting their security deposit back – just use it as your last month’s rent, or top it up if your rent is higher than the deposit. Yes, I know that’s not what your are supposed to do, but it has never failed me – it puts the onus on them to come after me if they want my money. But then, I always leave a place undamaged and clean, so it has never been a problem. And don’t threaten my landlords with lawyers, even when trying to get them to fix stuff they need to fix – it is better to learn to negotiate. Did you crack that wall? If so, fix it. If not, don’t worry about it.

      And about the rent check deposits – you and everybody else on here who find that a problem shoud just grow up and stop whining! It isn’t the responsibility of people you write checks to make your banking life easier. Learn to add and subtract – what kind of “young professionals” don’t know how to do that? I don’t keep a checkbook anymore either, but I can still look at my account online and mentally subtract my rent check that hasn’t cleared yet – it is my biggest payment each month by far. This alone makes you an unreasonable person in my view, one I wouldn’t want to do any business with, landlord or otherwise. Ditto complaining about things written in pen in the lease – that’s how contracts are amended. If they weren’t in the lease when you signed it, then you didn’t agree to them. That’s why people initial each and every one of those additions when signing. If you did, then this is a stupid thing to complain about! There is nothing wrong with changing a printed contract – it is a negotiation between the two sides. You come to an agreement, or you don’t end up renting the place. Signing and then complaining (except for the many illegal clauses found even in printed leases, the law still overrides many of them) is stupid – what did you agree to?

      • Emmaleigh504

        all of this. wtf is with people who cannot deal if a check is not cashed immediately? If the landlord saves Aprils check and cashes it at the same time as May then there should be no problem b/c one doesn’t write a check if it cannot be covered by cash in the bank.

        • I think as a new (ie very poor) grad it would be very difficult to budget with inconsistent deposits. I had to be fairly creative, strategic and very disciplined to not go over my budget and with age and more money it became second nature.

          When my company changed billing (paycheck) cycles I found it difficult for the first three months psychologically because all my bills were due at the end of the month leaving me with a quite small amount of checking money for a few days before my paycheck on the 7th. Even though I had an amble savings account at that point I still felt a bit of panic seeing the small number…what if an unexpected expense arises? Should I really go out to dinner tonight? While the cash inflow/outflows were the same seeing the small number did induce some unjustified feelings.

          • But you should be budgeting based on what you spend/checks you write, not what you see leaving your account. If the online format your bank provides isn’t working for you, get a check register from your bank. Or make a spreadsheet if you want it to be electronic.

      • I wasn’t about to spend one minute of my time replying to this nonsense but thank you for doing it so well!

      • +1 to everything in HaveRented’s comment except the idea of using your security deposit as your last month’s rent.

    • Blithe

      I’m still not clear what you mean by the landlord being “unbearable” and “cannot be reasoned with”. If by this you mean that she deposits the checks that you give her when she wants to — well, she gets to do that. Your job is to maintain enough money in the account until the checks clear, or face the penalties from your landlord and your bank if you haven’t done this. That’s not something that your landlord — or anyone — needs to negotiate with you.
      – Mentioning a lawyer is a threat. I bet you realized this. Threatening people to get what you want is not nice, and often has not nice consequences. Since you have a legal relationship — i.e. a lease — negotiating what you want in the lease agreement is a reasonable, appropriate way to address this.
      – If you damaged furniture and/or put a big crack in the wall, you should pay for it — either directly or with your security deposit. If you feel that your landlord expecting you to take reasonable care of what is likely her greatest asset — and charging you if you don’t is unreasonable, I would agree that you are being naive.
      – Trying to get money out of her goes beyond naive to being truly mean-spirited. You have an apartment that you love. You’ve threatened the octogenarian landlord with lawyering up for some unclear reason and you’ve damaged her property. For me there’s a real disconnect here — unless I’m truly not getting an accurate sense of how intrusive your landlord has been. If her threat to kick you out was in response to your threat to get a lawyer — then I’m puzzled by what you expected her response to be.
      -As I said above, IF there is any illegality re: the basement bedroom, it could legally be remedied by sharing the legal bedrooms. If you have chosen (for good reasons, I’m sure) not to do this, it’s not your landlord’s responsibility.
      – If you love living in the house and you want to continue living there, please know that damaging things that belong to other people and wanting to get money out of them is not the best way to maintain a cordial business relationship. I genuinely hope that things work out for you. And for your landlord.

    • Being a renter can be hard, but trying to get money out of the landlord is EXTREMELY unlikely and is too much time and effort. Assume your landlord will stay nasty then decide if you can tolerate that for the location, neighbors and friends. You will not be able to have both…which is what you seem to want.

      FYI- I’ve learned in adult life bringing up lawyers is the nuclear option of negotiations. NEVER EVER go to the nuclear option unless it is absolutely necessary. Maybe the landlord realizes you are young and naive but is also equally likely she thinks you are a hot-headed and threatening. So moral of the story- never ever bring up lawyers unless you are willing to blow up the situation/negotiation/etc…same goes with work.

      I sympathize with you on the point that the checks are clearing on a regular basis, that would drive me crazy! In my early 20s I wasn’t making much money and living for the most part paycheck to paycheck-so I understand it can be very difficult to budget with unstable cash inflow/outflows. In normal circumstances I would say have this conversation with her to let her know budgeting is a real issue maybe show her how to use the deposit app, however I suggest someone from the house who didn’t use the lawyers statement do that.

    • “As of an end game, honestly just wondering if I can get any $ out of her.”
      This just sounds spiteful. It sounds like you like the house and the rent, but you don’t like the landlord’s personality. If her personality is so “terrible” and your lease is up in August, just give notice and move. It doesn’t sound like you’re so miserable living there that you want to break your lease. And unless you want to break your lease, none of this should even be an issue. (And maybe not even then.)

  • I think we can all be honest here. You were happy with the place and the price when you moved in, but you want to break your lease now, and stick it to you landlord and this seems like your way to do it.

    While it seems “convenient” that you found out you were living in an illegal aprtment at just the right time to use it as a weapon, I don’t really buy it. It has been my experience that the only time people have a newfound “problem” with living in a unregistered apt is when they are looking to stick it to the landlord. Otherwise, they are fine with it.

    Most of your complaints above are pretty junior varsity. I mean, “golly gee, you broke her furniture (old or not), and she wants you to pay for it;” and “She takes a while to deposit checks”…why is that even a complaint, how is that making your life “absolutely horrible”? Or, she is “rude”. I hate to tell you, but life is rude and so was every landlord I ever had. Not exactly reason to run.

    Lastly, think the end move through here. You turn her in, she has to remedy the situation. Doing that requires you to leave and to find another place that fits your preferences and budget, which from the looks of the rental market in DC, is like finding a unicorn.

    Good luck

  • Turn her in to DC housing regulators, the DC tax authorities, and the IRS. I am a tax attorney. The reason she is not depositing the rent on time is that she is trying to disguise the income flows and not trigger IRS filters. You need to realize that most landlords for whom rental real estate is a part-time occupation cheat on their taxes. They underreport or do not report income, and they claim massive deductions for personal expenses not related to the maintenance of their properties. Also, the vast majority are not in compliance with local laws in terms of registering their properties, obtaining valid business rental licenses, and complying with local housing codes. When others cheat on their taxes, other citizens have to make up the difference. When your neighbor cheats on their taxes, they are basically stealing from your wallet. If everyone paid their fair share, overall tax rates would be lower. You and your housemates also need to realize that DC has some of the strongest tenants rights laws in the country. It is extremely difficult to evict anyone in DC. Consult the website for TENAC — the tenants rights organization in DC. Many tenants in DC wisely hold their negligent and noncompliant landlords to the fire and are able to extort concessions from their landlords because their landlords fear the wrath of DC housing authorities, DC tax authorities, and the IRS. Note that most state tax authorities and the IRS also have whistleblower programs that entitle whistleblowers to a share of the proceeds for turning in tax cheats like your landlord. Good luck.

    • I suppose she could be this nefarious and calculating. Or she could be 80, not living so close to the edge that she needs the cash right away, and deposits checks when she gets around to making the trek to the bank. I have no idea if she is or isn’t claiming this income on her taxes, but waiting 3 weeks to cash a check does’t mean it’s a tax dodge.

  • Hey man, best thing I’ve heard of is to call the city’s housing inspector, who will come out, do an inspection, find that the landlord isn’t following the building codes/rules, write a report, file said report with the city in which case the landlord has 30 days to make all necessary improvements. Furthermore, if you’d like to take her to court for related reasons, you can use the report as evidence issues, which may result in reimbursement on your behalf. I know a few individuals who have done this successfully under similar circumstances.

  • As far as the check is concerned, I have stopped writing checks from my checkbook to send rent. I don’t know if this is how your bank works, but I pay my rent on my bank’s bill pay site. My bank gives you the option of putting a physical address and name into my bill pay. They take money out of my account, put it into an intermediate escrow account, write a check out of that account and then send a physical check directly to my landlord that is funded out of that intermediate account. This cuts out the stress of worrying about when the check is going to be cashed because essentially, it has been cashed out of my bank account the moment I post it online and the funds are unavailable. No worries of overdraft if the check is cashed when I don’t expect it anymore

    (I know that this is how it works because this Christmas I was away from home and checkbook and didn’t have my bank account and router numbers. I tried to use the numbers off of one of those cleared checks that my landlord had scanned online to pay for something. There was not a favorable outcome from that experiment…Lesson learned.)

  • Can’t you just pay with a money order if the unpredictable check depositing is so hard to deal with?

  • Disturbed by the personal finance skills of people who can’t manage having written a single check that’s not yet been deposited.

  • Sounds like a landlord I had. Are you in NE?

Comments are closed.