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About two weeks ago, the D.C. Superior Court announced its new Housing Conditions Calendar, which allows tenants to sue their landlords for housing code violations in Superior Court on an expedited schedule. It doesn’t look like many people know about it yet, though—a Courts spokeswoman tells Housing Complex that only four cases have so far been filed. Three of them will be heard on May 24, and the last one two weeks later.
While tenant advocates worked hard for the new procedure and celebrated its announcement, some have also voiced reservations about how the court is set up. For one thing, it’s only held on Mondays, which could be hard for working folk to make. For another, says Farah Fosse of the Latino Economic Development Corporation, the new court doesn’t have an escrow function like landlord-tenant court, which provides for rent to go into a special account until the case is settled.
“The judge will able to say, ‘make repairs,'” says Fosse. “But if there was no heat for a month? The judge won’t have the power to say, ‘the tenant doesn’t have to pay x amount of rent.'”
Fosse says she hopes that the procedure can be improved over time.
“We’re really excited about it and I’m glad that it’s happening,” she says. “But probably there will need to be some changes.”