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My beef is with them!' DC man says city agency helped landlord kick him out of apartment
WASHINGTON, DC -- "I live there! You see, I'm not letting her come and push me out the way!”
Glen McFadden was fuming. He wanted the D.C. City Council to understand just what was happening to him: his landlord, he said, was pushing him out of the Trinidad apartment where he’d lived for seven years. And now his building was surrounded by construction cranes – clear signs of the booming development in his rapidly changing Northeast neighborhood.
McFadden says he saw the development creeping in close to home. His landlord started renovating the empty units around him – even posting a "for rent" sign on the first floor.
But the landlord didn't serve him an eviction notice. Instead, McFadden says, she made the apartment unsafe and unsanitary so he would be forced out.
A view of the conditions in Glen McFadden's Trinidad apartment (Courtesy Glen McFadden)
We asked the landlord if she was trying to push McFadden out of the apartment. She emailed us back saying because of pending litigation, "I am not authorized to speak to anyone."
"So now, I have no water, no heat, no gas!" McFadden testified during the council oversight hearing.
McFadden called the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to report the landlord after living in those conditions for several months. Its mission is to keep residents, like McFadden, safe. So, he assumed, the agency would get the landlord to repair the problems. Instead, he says, DCRA forced him to leave his home.
"The court tell me to move, I'll move,” McFadden said. “I don't want DCRA to help her get me out the way! My beef is with them, right! I called them for help!"
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In a civil lawsuit filed in late Spring this year, attorneys describe the apartment as "unsafe and unsanitary," with countless violations. McFadden said the stove was leaking gas, the hot water heater was corroded and the electrical fuses were removed from the utility box – cutting off power to his place.
McFadden testified before the city council that the landlord promised to fix the problems.
"It was, in my view, scandalous," said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
McFadden's story is not unique. During a year-long investigation, WUSA9 exposed widespread failures in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs surrounding illegal construction in the city.
Since the airing of our reports, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is proposing legislation to break DCRA into two agencies because, he said, in its current form DCRA is letting residents like McFadden down.
"The landlord was creating the housing code violations to make the units uninhabitable. And rather than DCRA stepping in and fixing that problem, DCRA came in and ordered the tenants to leave!" Mendelson said.
The Chairman gave DCRA Director Melinda Bolling a public grilling for hours at a city council oversight hearing back in March.
"He's being ripped out of his home!" Mendelson said to Bolling.
She responded, "And, he will be returned!"
McFadden did not return to his home for nearly two months, though. When DCRA finally realized the landlord was not going to fix the violations, the agency stepped in and not only paid for McFadden's hotel stay, but the necessary repairs as well. All told it cost nearly $35,000 – all on the taxpayer's dime.
Bolling said the agency steps in when the landlord won't step up to pay for repairs. It did just that 980 times this year alone at a cost of about $760,000.
"You have unfunded and sometimes reluctant landlords that need to be dealt with and the law doesn't deal with that right now," Bolling said.
"I fully intend to not let up in regard to oversight, to continue to press, and in that way, to try to get the agency to be more responsive," said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
As for McFadden: He says he’s not going anywhere, "That's my home, you know, what I'm saying! I live in Trinidad! I'm not gonna get pushed out by DCRA!"