Last week, many WUSA9 viewers emailed and called about pipe bursts, no heat and no hot water complaints. WUSA9 wants to know what are tenants rights in these situations?
Matt Losak is the Executive Director for the Montgomery County Renters Alliance. It's a non-profit that fights for tenants' rights and he said most renters don't know them.
“They're aware that your apartment is supposed to warm enough to live in,” he lightly laughs under his breath. What you need to know, he says, are your county's codes. In Montgomery County, for example," Losak said. “County Code states that it has to be 68-degrees in habitual spaces … anything less than that is unacceptable.”
No heat and no hot water in your unit?
“First thing you should do is contact your property manager or landlord,” said Losak. "Hopefully that's an “obvious.”
Not so obvious is that to protect yourself as a tenant, Losak said whenever you have an issue in your unit, you should also call 311. They'll usually send an inspector.
“If you're in an apartment building and the entire building is out of heat and hot water, it's a little more difficult,” said Maryland Assistant Attorney General, Karen Straughn, over the phone. Straughn is the Director of MD OAG Mediation Unit.
Straughn said the state does not have a minimum temperature requirement, which is why they direct tenants with any heat, hot or cold water and electricity issues to also contact their hotline.
That number is (410) 528-8662.
Straughn said you can fight for hotel or rent reimbursement, but it all depends on your situation. There's also the option of seeking escrow accounts when issues persist, but Straughn highly recommends you speak with a county or state professional for guidance.
Losak, even takes things one step further.
“If you apartment is now in the 50s or 40s or getting even colder in the upper freezing temperatures and you find that your health is at risk, you should call the Fire Department at 911,” Losak said.
Losak also said this is only for serious, life-threatening emergencies.
You can face serious trouble for abusing 911 services.
A Prince George's County Spokesperson also says to call 311.