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“I recently had been a resident of Rhode Island Row until the person living above me started a fire and ran out the building with no shoes on.”

by Prince Of Petworth September 9, 2016 at 2:00 pm 44 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I recently had been a resident of Rhode Island Row in NE DC. That was until the person living above me started a fire and ran out the building with no shoes on. The fire caused my whole apartment to flood with water and destroy almost everything my roommate and I own. If that wasn’t horrible enough the way Bozzuto management handled the situation was appalling.

Here is the story in details.

I’m taking a nap after work and am awoken by the lady above. She screams fire and all I hear are loud noises. BANG BANG, loud noise after loud noise. Then the fire alarm in the whole building goes off. I’m still half asleep and no idea what’s going on. The fire alarm goes off all the time. It’s got to the point where I just ignore it when it goes off. That’s when water starts pouring from the ceiling. It’s started in the kitchen from from the light fixtures in the ceiling. With in 2 mins it went from dry apartment to India during monsoon season. I run downstairs to ask the front desk for help in saving my apartment. Took my about 10mins of searching to find anybody that worked in my building. All they told me was to go outside and exit the building. I told him my apartment is being flooded. He just said leave the building. That’s what I did, I went outside and waited for the firemen to let me back in. Waited outside for about 30-45 mins. As I’m walking back to my apartment I can hear water pouring from 1/2 way down the hallway. When I get to my apartment door it sounds like the rain forrest. Open the door to around 4 inches of water in my place with more coming down with no sign of stopping. Once again I try to find someone who works at my building, with no luck. I just go to the fireman and tell them what’s going on. The firemen help me move some things like my TV, couch and unplug everything. At this point there is no saving my bedroom that’s completely under water. My roommate gets home, I called him when I was waiting to get back in. He can’t believe how much water there is. The apartment mangers finally arrive, they look at my apartment for about 3 secs then leave. Didn’t even talk to me or my roommate. I asked the fireman how this fire started. He kinda chuckles and says it’s under suspicion due to the amount of drugs and alcohol in the apartment above. They guy who was home ran out the building with no shoes on and fled. I have no idea if he is free or if they caught him.

This is when my roommate Jon and I go down to the office to talk to the management staff. We want to know more about how the fire started. They said the guy ran and that’s all they say. No mention of the drugs and alcohol the firemen told us about. We tell them the upstairs neighbors are always loud and have way to many people over all the time. Then they start to insinuate that this is our fault for not complaining about him. That if we had filled complaints this wouldn’t of happened. My roommate and I go from shock to anger. They are trying to put the blame on us. Then they tell us our apartment will be fixed in 3-6 days and not worry they will help us move and they will take care of this. Lies, lies and more lies from the start.

We go back to the apartment to take some photos and videos of what happened. That’s when this guy from a construction crew type job shows up and starts moving things and bringing in a crew of people to start putting plastic up. No one has said a word to us about bringing in a crew of people. He tells us this apartment will be unlivable for 30-90 days and all our belongings are going to be put in storage. Now I don’t have a car and I don’t want my stuff in some random storage I’ve never been too.

We go back down to start talking to management. Who tell us they are trying to get us a hotel for one night. Yeah only one night. We ask what are we gonna do after one night. They have no idea what do to do with us. We ask if we can get a new apartment that Bozzuto manages. They say yes but that is breaking our lease and we will have to pay a penalty. We can’t believe what they are saying. They keep telling us we should just go to a hotel and sleep. Neither of us wants to leave all our stuff in our soaked apartment with a crew of people in there moving everything. After arguing they say if we take a apartment across the street, still in Rhode Island row, we won’t have to pay a penalty for breaking the lease. We have to sign a new lease and get renters insurance before the get us keys to our new place. They also didn’t check if the keys they gave us worked and asked if we would go check and see. The place they gave us has no furniture and they washer and drying isn’t working.

We go back to our apartment to get things we will need. Everything we own has been moved and tossed in corners of the room while crews of people start tearing down dry wall. Everything that isn’t soaked is now covered in dirt and dust. After being told over and over and over by our management company they would help us move. They ordered food and watched us move our belongings across the street. I slept on the floor that night with the one blanket that wasn’t soaked with no pillows and no idea what’s going to happen. Things only got worse.

My roommate and I wake up to our new apartment go back to see what’s going on. Even more dirt and torn down walls everywhere and we ask about our stuff getting moved. We get a number for a moving company that says it will cost $2000 to move last min on a weekend and we should just sign and they will take it out of our insurance later. That this point I can’t believe what I’m hearing. My roommate calls the Bozzuto head office and after about a hour yelling at everyone they finally get so frustrated with us they say we can leave with no penalty. Gave us 30 days to move our stuff out before they toss it in the trash. They also tried to get us to pay for the electric bill for all the industrial fans and blowers that we’re in the apartment for days. We wouldn’t find that out till later when we got the bill.

We spent 2 nights sleeping on the floor there before we got a new apartment that I slept on the floor on. I can’t believe the way they treated us. All they cared about was their apartment. They had no problem blaming us and trying to get as much money out of us as possible before they kicked us to the curb.

  • I know hindsight is 50/50, but the first thing anyone should do in this situation is call your renter’s insurance company. Your policy probably covered loss of use, meaning you insurance would set you up with a place to stay. Then let your insurance company deal with management/whoever is at fault.

    • Anon Spock

      Seems they don’t have it as a condition for the new place in the row was signing a new lease and getting renters insurance.

      • They probably meant getting renter’s insurance for the new unit. The insurance isn’t transferable from one unit (address) to another.

        • Also, I’d be really surprised if any commercially managed apartment complex didn’t require renter’s insurance as a condition of moving in.

          • accendo

            Agreed. I lived in a Bozzutto building the first couple years I lived in DC and it was absolutely required with them specifically listed as the Lessor/building owner.

          • S

            I currently live in a Buzzuto apartment, and I was required to show renter’s insurance on the unit before I could sign my lease.

          • AliceInDC

            Surprisingly, my first apartment in DC was managed by Borger who said nothing about renter’s insurance. My current apartment in Michigan is the same way. Both times I made sure to get insurance on my own but thought it was pretty crazy to not require it.

        • SilverSpringGal

          Some place require renter’s insurance, some don’t. I lived in Borger and they didn’t. But they’re also some of the cheapest places in the city to rent. Equity did require renter’s insurance though.

      • John M

        Most large management companies will require proof of insurance before move-in, however I’ve heard some people who when required to setup renter’s insurance upon move-in will just cancel it a month in hoping nothing happens or management won’t notice.
        Not a good idea. It’s also good for the liability part as well because if YOU are at some fault for starting the fire, you’re covered for the damages.

    • anon

      Maybe my renter’s insurance is cheap, but I seem to remember specifically that I had to choose to pay a bit extra to have loss of use (where they pay for a hotel for some days) coverage.
      And if you truly want coverage for liability for stuff you cause, you need an umbrella policy in addition. Mine is way cheaper than my renter’s insurance, cover me for up to $1 million for liability, and wraps not only my renter’s insurance but my auto insurance – that one could result in more liability. Downside is you have to have certain liability minimums already on you auto and renter’s for umbrella to kick in when they are exhausted. Another downside is that if you have lots of insurance, you insurance company is more likely to settle and pay out even when you weren’t at fault (cheaper than litigation.) I got all this when I got condo insurance when I owned a place and was earning well – I never had renter’s insurance before that – but have kept it up since I moved and sold and became a renter again (of course, moving to DC, both places I’ve lived here have required it.)

      • JoDa

        I mean, maybe loss of use was a separate line item on my insurance that I could have declined, but the whole package, including loss of use up to $5K and riders for a few antiques (not super-duper expensive, but quite valuable for what they are…like, a “normal” small occasional table/cabinet isn’t insured for over $5K), was around $110-120/YEAR. If people are cheaping out on $10 or less per month, especially after being required to obtain the coverage, perhaps they are just reaping what they sowed.
        IIRC, mine also included a small amount of liability coverage in that amount. Something like $50K. Certainly not enough to replace a whole apartment building or defend against a large personal injury suit if someone fell and broke their neck because, but enough to fix my apartment back up after a fire or cover a neighbor’s apartment/stuff if I was deemed liable for backing up the toilet and flooding their bathroom.
        Finally, insurance companies in DC won’t write umbrella policies unless you have some kind of personal auto policy. I looked into getting one, but since I don’t own a car, it would cost me a goodly amount, since I’d have to get a non-owner auto policy and THEN could add umbrella. It was far cheaper for me to just increase my liability limits on my properties than get both a non-owner auto and umbrella policy.

      • jdegg

        I have a $1million umbrella too. It’s about $100/year.

  • VV

    I feel like I already know the answer to this question, but: what did your renter’s insurance company have to say about all of this?

    (This, folks, is why you really, really need to have it.)

    • Ben

      “(This, folks, is why you really, really need to have it.)” Or at least pay to be on the top floor so you can be the one starting fires to ruin other people’s apartments!

  • Big Earl

    This is obviously a horrible situation. But, I’m sure the management company has a different version of these events. I would document everything and hire a lawyer to see if you can recover out of pocket costs.

    This is the best advertisement for Rental Insurance that I’ve ever seen.

    • Maiden of Mount Pleasant

      This story reminded me to renew my renter’s insurance ASAP. OP, I’m sorry you and your roommate are going through this. I’m looking for a new place and it definitely won’t be in a Bozzuto building!

  • neighbor

    Steps you need to take:
    1. Call your renter’s insurance.
    2. Talk to OTA.
    3. Get a lawyer.
    Lots of complicated factors. I kind of doubt Bozzuto is on the hook for your belongings if the fire was started by the resident. It also seems like during the fire everyone behaved properly, they can’t send people into a possibly burning building.

    Bozzuto should have to provide you with a livable unit if you’re paying rent, but you’ll need OTA to help figure out what their specific obligations are. Hopefully that will get fixed when they run this up the chain, it’s probably just the property manager being an idiot at this point.

  • also anon

    Do you have renter’s insurance? If so your insurance company should be dealing with the property management company.
    Also I’m assuming that the flood is from sprinklers on the floor above you going off? You never explicitly state that but I have no clue how the management company could be blaming you for the flood if that’s the case.

    • also anon

      PS. Renter’s insurance is ridiculously cheap (probably less than $100-200 a year unless you have lots of valuable things) so for those that don’t have it please consider getting it ASAP.

  • Anon

    Yea, so Bozzuto is horrible. Sorry that you had to learn the hard way.

  • Whop

    Why didn’t they give you guys the courtesy apartment in the 2350 building?

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Is this Your Early Afternoon Outrage?

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Yea, Bozzuto sux. Raised my rent $200 and added on an ‘amenity” fee. Aren’t amenities supposed to be the reason you want to live there? Any how that got my butt in gear and I bought my new place within a month.

  • Campagnolo

    Maybe the upstairs neighbor woke up to get a cold pop, then thought someone was barbecuing? Perhaps she has bronchitis? What ever happened, it definitely sounds like she did not have time for that.

    • karna

      Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  • kd

    yes buzzuto sucks and I’m sure they handled it horribly. but I’ve lived in multiple buzzuto communities and actually looked at renting at Rhode Island Row, and I know they require you to purchase renters insurance. it’s to avoid situations like this..

  • Anonymous

    Why do people continue to live in these massive corporate-owned buildings? They are usually overpriced, cramped, terrible sound and smell isolation, come with a raft of inane rules and policies, and nickle & dime you for every damn thing. You’re just an input – and, if lucky, an actual line item – in their Excel profit model.
    They make money by providing the least amount of service at the lowest cost possible (to them) at the highest possible amount of money they can extract (from you).
    I feel like I’m taking crazy pills when I hear about people having a shitty experience at another big apartment building. As if they were to expect a different outcome.

    • Leeran

      I mean, yeah, but the market’s tight and it’s really hard to find housing in DC – and in my experience renting apartments NOT owned by big companies, it’s just as much of a crapshoot.

    • jumpingjack

      If you’re moving here from out of town or for some other reason don’t have time to do the legwork to visit a bunch of little places and manage communications with lots of potential landlords, it can make the most sense to just go with a big manager that will have apartments available.

    • Maiden of Mount Pleasant

      +1. Recently visited a friend who lives in another Bozzuto property (Flats 130 in NoMA). She hosted a party in one of the common rooms. It was modern, well furnished, and seemed brand new, but there were ants everywhere and some of the wall fixtures were already coming loose. The building seemed like a dorm or corporate hotel for young professionals (and I say that as a 33 year old who rents elsewhere). I’ve been looking for a new rental and slickness/ALL CAPS/wheeling and dealing that prevails in the corporate building listings make me feel like I’ve been sprayed with Drakkar Noir.

      • Former Dupont Circle Girl

        +1000 – I lived in 7th Flats for six months and it was basically a dorm. Nothing against college students, but my boyfriend and I were paying almost $1,200 a month each for an apartment less than two years old with water damage, constant noise from neighbors even after we lodged complaints (I’m talking blasting base at 4 am on a Tuesday – we’re not whiners, but come on) and a common room that had a mice problem. When we moved out, we got slammed with moving fees and all these things that seemed made up, but were legal based on the fine print of their policy. Long story short, renters insurance is important, STAY AWAY from Bozzuto.

    • oh2dc

      I think it is convenience (at a cost). If you’re moving from out of town on short notice, these places are super easy options. They usually offer parking, loading docks for moving, front desk services, a gym, etc. They usually have full-time leasing staff that make it simple to get a unit. It’s a path of least resistance. Sure, you’re paying way too much for it and the service is ultimately not good after they have you signed, but if you don’t have the time to deal with learning new neighborhoods and hustling on Craigslist, this is easy. I agree they are terrible, but I get the temptation.

    • SilverSpringGal

      I did it (with Equity) because I got tired of my older than dirt Soviet-style building. I wanted something new. I wanted stainless steel appliances got damned it. Sue me, I’m shallow.

    • Long Term Renter

      I have had a lot better experience with a big company than with other situations. I’ve rented from Borger for almost 15 years, in a great location and in a building that is well kept. Management has been responsive to all maintenance requests. Previously I rented a basement apartment from an individual who decided they wanted their in-laws to live there instead, so after only two years (of being a good tenant) I was out. (Similarly I have a friend who rented an individual’s condo; the friend’s occupancy was ended when the owner decided to move back into the city from the suburbs.)

      I am much happier with the big company, and would be very hesitant to rent from an individual ever again.

      • Nonny

        I also rent from Borger, and I’ve been very happy with them. They respond to maintenance issues very quickly, and I like the staff in my building.

      • Anonymous

        Borger runs a lot of older buildings that are built like tanks. They don’t make ’em like that anymore. And most people I know living with them also have good things to say. I lived in two Frank Emmet buildings – again, older buildings with good maintenance but zero flash – and they also did me right.
        My initial rant was more about the newer rental buildings that are sprouting up like warts across the city. They are built like crap and have silly prices. And even if you’re moving to the city from elsewhere, it behoves you to not be lazy and rent the shiniest stainless steel you see in a glorified dorm over the internet. It doesn’t have to be that way and wasn’t for me when I first moved to DC from overseas. These companies, like Bozzuto, are leveraged to the tilt. I actually prefer the older buildings run by long established companies because they are nothing but pure profit for those companies – the mortgages were paid off long ago.

  • AAA

    Buzzuto is awful. After we moved out, they continued to send us bills and charge us late fees for an apartment we no lived in…and we had given them ample notice and turned in the keys to the manager. Amassed around 10K in late rent from them before they finally understood that they were in the wrong. I hate those guys.

  • Never trust Bozutto

    I am so glad to see that Popville has posted about this. My partner and I experienced a VERY similar situation while living in Takoma Central, another building managed by Bozzuto. Our apartment flooded and many of our things were destroyed after a pipe burst in a unit above ours. We were treated the exact same way that is described by the resident in this story. We were misled in terms of the time it would take to make our unit inhabitable again and we were treated extremely disrespectfully by all levels of staff at Bozzuto management (that we were able to get in contact with, which was like pulling teeth). We were not even offered a place to stay at the beginning, until we fought for it. We stayed in a hotel until we were finally offered a temporary unit in our building. We requested to store our belongings in a clean, dry place while the work was being done on our unit, but were denied this request. This was despite the fact that they had roughly half the building still unoccupied at the time. We were ultimately displaced from our apartment for nearly 4 months.

    Regarding renter’s insurance, we did have it as it was required for move-in. It covered our hotel costs until we were able to move into a temporary apartment. However, the cost of our brand new furniture and many articles of clothing that were damaged was only partially-reimbursed. Plus, it was a major ordeal to have everything assessed and inventoried by the renter’s insurance company. Therefore, I certainly agree with previous posters that renter’s insurance is a must, but also want to make clear that it doesn’t make all the problems of this sort of situation go away.

    Better treatment from Bozzuto (who we continued to pay $2000+ in rent during this ordeal) would have made a huge difference in the misery that we experienced. Meanwhile, we are still waiting to receive our security deposit after having moved out in the beginning of June. We received a check from them that the bank was unable to process, sent them a follow-up about it, and have yet to hear back. The check was for only about 20% of our security deposit and we also never received an explanation of where the rest of our deposit went. We left the unit spotless.

    • Anon Spock

      If you’re in DC, they have 45 days to send the money or 75 to return it after the explanation of deductions is provided by 45 days. Md probably has something similar. In either case, it sounds like you need to sue them. I wouldn’t cash anything that wasn’t the full amount you’re owed.

      • Never trust Bozzuto

        Thank you. It is technically in DC. My guess is they would try to argue that they did send money. Almost not even worth dealing with them.

  • Property Manager

    I am a Property Manager and I suggest that you read your lease thoroughly and with a clear head before spending money on an attorney. From what I can tell not knowing the exact terms of the lease, Bozzuto probably did more than they were required to do. Obviously it wasn’t done with the best customer service approach. Unfortunately, often times residents learn exactly what they agreed to when signing the lease, at inopportune times. The management company will operate based on the terms of the lease that everyone agreed to when signing under no duress. When something like this happens, many residents feel that it is the Management Company’s problem to resolve, regardless of what was agreed to in the lease. I am sorry you are having to deal with this unfortunate situation.

    • Never trust Bozzuto

      I can certainly understand that sometimes unfortunate events happen. My biggest complaint is with the customer service during a difficult situation.

  • reality

    I mean, do you have renters insurance? It’s not on them to put you up in a hotel, you need renter’s insurance to take care of you and your stuff. It’s also not on them to tell you what’s inside the apartment above you.

  • Writer of the article

    So I wrote this article. I did have insurance and they only give you money for the stuff you lost. For example: my 3 year old Mac was ruined. It cost $700 when I bought it. Since its 3 years old they only give you around $350 back. All the cost of moving I had to pay. All the little things that got ruined like my toothbrush and all my towels and clothes that had to be dry cleaned I had to pay for.

    I ment I had to get insurance on the new apartment they gave us before we were allowed to go in. Yes it was across the street. I didn’t trust the management anymore and didn’t feel safe living there so I moved.


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