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All Chris Edelson wanted, for his wife and 18-month-old daughter, was some warmth. Cold snaps have already whipped through the city, and the management of his apartment building at 4850 Connecticut Avenue NW had ignored requests to turn on the heat in the building. Edelson called his councilmember, his Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, to no avail.

“We’re cold, other tenants are cold, and we have no way to make building management comply with the law,” Edelson emailed in desperation yesterday. “We have trouble keeping our daughter warm in the apartment as it’s been in the 40s or low 50s at night and in the early morning recently.  I’ve heard stories from other families with small children who are similarly affected. One mother in our apartment complex told me the only way she can keep her 2 and a half year old son warm is to bring him into her bed at night. This is a story better suited to a Charles Dickens novel than 21st century America.”

A Dickens character might have had more to deal with than a chilly apartment. But this is an issue faced by thousands of tenants every winter, when the cold kicks in before management companies crank up the heat. And actually, starting October 15, they’re required to by law: D.C. regulations require rooms without thermostats to be kept above 68 degrees during the day and above 65 degrees at night.

Edelson says the management company, Archstone, finally turned on the heat after he got a response from DCRA. If you’re still freezing in your apartment, DCRA says it will dispatch a housing inspector and slap the landlord with fines of $1,000 per day they’re in violation.

You may not have the right to vote, but under District housing law, you at least have the right to be warm.

Photo by flickr user midnightscomm under a Creative Commons attribution license.