Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
QWashington: I am a landlord in D.C. and on a recent visit to the apartment to fix something, I noticed that the appliances were dirty. Is there a way in which I can tell my renters that they should keep the appliances in better condition, or should I offer a one-time cleaning, which I pay for?
AYes, you can tell them gently, kindly that you noticed the appliances needed a good cleaning and that you hope they would keep them a little better. Offering that one-time cleaning would be nice. After that cleaning, tell them that you expect the appliances to be that clean when they move out. Maybe that will get them to clean a little more.
Tenleytown: My boyfriend lives in a house that he and five other people rent. The house is drafty, so in the winter it gets rather cold. Since they pay the heat/electric bills, the landlord is in no rush to make sure the house is properly insulated. Also, during the winter the heat went off about six times -- and always when it was the coldest, so they woke up freezing and seeing their breath. Is there something their landlord is responsible for? What can they do? They were paying hundreds of dollars a month to keep the house heated and that just seems too high!
The landlord is responsible for maintaining the heating system. If it broke down six times during the winter, ask him to service it now.
Washington: I have a couple of problems with my rental-landlord. The owner used to live there and still has mail delivered to the house. He comes over all the time (without calling) to pick up the mail. A few times, he's walked in when I was partially dressed, or in the shower. How do I politely tell him to give me more notice of entering? Or, can I (legally) request that he forward his mail to his current residence? This is getting quite uncomfortable.
Walked in while you are undressing? Why be polite if he is barging in on you like that? Just tell him straight out that you are uncomfortable with him just coming and going, and that you would like him to forward his mail.
In a non-emergency, he's supposed to give you 24 hours' notice before entering your apartment. I am not sure what the law is regarding requesting that his mail be forwarded, but ask at the post office. You could also bundle his mail and leave it outside your door in the meantime so that he need not enter to get it.
Sara Gebhardt's Apartment Life column appears biweekly in this section, and her Web chat appears monthly on www.washingtonpost.com.