“Do I have any rights here as a tenant to have them fixed?”

window
Photo by PoPville flickr user Chris Williams

“Dear PoPville,

I’ve tried reaching out to DCRA, OTA, and am thinking about paying DC Tenants for a consultation, but I thought maybe the PoPville community would have some insights.

I’ve been a 9 year renter of a unit from The United House of Prayer that has several floor to ceiling walls made up of window panels (like a lot of Suzane Reatig’s designs). Over the past year, several of the large and small window panels have captured fog and condensation in between the panes, most likely indicating a broken seal and leak of the filler gas. For the last 11 months I’ve been trying to get the landlord to fix or replace the windows, but they are being a combination of non-responsive and outright refusing to address it.

Do I have any rights here as a tenant to have them fixed? The cosmetic side is bothersome as I’d like to be able to see clearly through my windows, but there’s also the concern that the seals are broken and they’re probably far less energy efficient than they should be.”

11 Comment

  • I don’t think the landlord is obliged to fix something that’s only cosmetic.
    .
    Are you paying for heat/air conditioning, or are they included in your rent? Unless there’s a discernible draft coming through, I’m not sure you really have grounds to insist that UHOP fixes the windows.
    .
    To me, “failing window seals” falls into the category of “not great, but not a big deal.” On the spectrum of landlord-tenant issues/friction, that’s not the hill I’d want to die on as a tenant.

  • I think the only case you could make is if the issues with the glass cause the temperature in your apartment to go above or below the minimum or above the required temperature (assuming you have AC provisions in your lease).

    • Ditto to below re: they will only be compelled to fix, generally, if it is to habitability. Does not have to be no heat per se, just that the window causes the apartment to be colder than the DC defined habitability standard (iirc 55 degrees). Otherwise, a tough putt since all you can do is say that while not colder, it causes you to have to constantly run the heat and your bills are way higher. Also, fwiw, my office building (federal) is owned managed by a company, and this happened to several of the windows, and when GSA tried to compel them to fix it, was told its only cosmetic, and no requirement to fix. So, if the feds cannot win, I cannot imagine how much of an uphill battle this is.

  • I’m guessing that cosmetic issues and a suspicion of energy-inefficiency are not going to be enough to demand satisfaction. At the very least, I would do your homework (e.g. have a window company do an inspection and give you a repair quote) before making claims about what you think is wrong and why it needs to be fixed.

  • There’s two options you can use to compel your landlord to do anything. First is if something in the apartment violates a legal habitability standard – but that’s a much higher bar than what you’re talking about (we’d be talking about no heat, no water, or serious mold or other health issue). Second is if there’s something in the contract specific to that item, although I doubt there would be anything about the window seal in your lease contract. The third option is to do what anyone can do when faced with a crappy apartment – threaten to move out unless it’s improved.

  • Just be happy you rent them and don’t own them…windows are $$$.

    • This doesn’t address getting this fixed as a renter, but it might not be as expensive of a fix as you may imagine. I had this same issue with a standard size window in my old condo. I lived with the fogged glass for a decade figuring it would be expensive to replace the window. When I sold it, the buyer insisted I fix this as part of the sale and thanks to my Real Estate agent, I learned I didn’t need to replace the whole window– just the fogged pane of glass. For my standard sized window it was less than $250 all in. My only regret is not fixing the issue 10 years earlier.

  • It’s probably a very expensive repair, and it’s hard to imagine that it violates any of your rights as a tenant.

  • i used to work for a glass company. fogged insulated glass units can be relatively inexpensive to replace as long as the type of window you have allows for them to be easily swapped out. most are. it also depends on the size of the glass you need as its all calculated by square foot + labor to install. if the seals are broken you are not getting the insulating benefits from the glass and your heating/cooling costs will go up.

    Here is my recommendation – take a few detailed photos of the area around the the glass – where ever it “sits.” Take pics of both the inside and the outside. take measurements of the glass. email all the info to a glass company and they will give u an estimate. if its sky high then you know your landlord is just being stingy.

    • Landlord could also be assuming it’ll be sky high, hence not dealing with it. IT could be a cheap fix but the landlord doesn’t realize.

  • This is one of the many downsides of windows as walls and no the landlord isn’t obligated to fix it unless it effects habitability. Given the size of the windows it sounds like a very expensive repair but the person who suggested you get a quote is steering you right. Maybe it won’t be nuts, maybe you want to go half on it with them if you’re planning to stay another 9 years. I’m a landlord and I make special accommodations like that for my long term tenants.

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