Yesterday when I picked upĀ  my mail I was greeted by not one, but two, letters from a law firm. Being a law abiding citizen, I kind of freaked out. Opening it, I found that the owner of the condo I am leasing is delinquent in their condo fees. The condo association is now demanding I pay them in lieu of paying rent to my landlord, and is threatening legal action, including eviction, against me if I don’t. Even though I have done nothing wrong. This is my third week in the apartment. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it.

So here’s my case for tenant’s rights. When I applied for this apartment, I had to fill out a detailed application with information about how much I had in my bank accounts, my debts (none, by the way), my employment history and salary, personal references, etc. All to prove I could and would pay rent on time. This is all normal, and I know that. But, as I signed a legal agreement in the form of a lease, which gave my landlord all sorts of recourse if I was delinquent in rent, I had no protection if the landlord did not pay their mortgage or their condo fees. I had no assurance in the form of an application with their personal and financial information or the opportunity to run a credit check to make sure they would pay their mortgage and other associated fees on time so that I could continue residence in the property.

Should I have demanded this? As I’m learning, probably. Is it normal? No. Would I have been rebuffed if I had asked? Probably. We should demand tenant’s rights, because when owners are foreclosed on and tenants have to deal with the consequences of not having a home, or condo fees aren’t paid and the association holds the tenants responsible, and we as tenants have no recourse, that isn’t OK. Why do landlords get all of the legal protection and tenants get next to nothing? I’m not OK with that. I’m a financially responsible, law abiding person, and I won’t stand to be held legally responsible for my landlord’s apparent irresponsibility just because I happen to be the tenant.

For various reasons, I’m looking for a new apartment in the U street area with my boyfriend. To leave the details intentionally vague, I believe we’re being discriminated against by a potential landlord. We make more than enough money to qualify for the lease, yet he is holding out for whatever reason.

DC has some of the most comprehensive fair housing laws in the country. A friend used to work for the National Fair Housing Alliance, and through talking to her I’ve learned a lot about fair housing. While federal laws state that you can’t be discriminated against based on “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin” as well as because of a disability, DC’s laws are much more comprehensive.

DC prohibits discrimination against “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, familial status, family responsibilities, disability, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, or place of residence or business of any individual.” I could probably make a case against discrimination in my case with at least three of those protected classes.

But is it worth it? I don’t really want to fight this landlord, because why would I want a landlord that is either unfamiliar with these laws or is familiar with them and doesn’t adhere to them? Regardless, it rightfully makes me very mad. I’m still looking for a new, better place on U street.