Adams Morgan resident Kwame Fosu was sitting in his office in January when he received a series of bewildering calls from a house guest who heard vigorous banging at Fosu’s door.
“He said, ‘Are you expecting someone?’” recalls Fosu. “I said, ‘No, ignore them. I’m not expecting anyone.’” The banging got louder and, minutes later, his guest said someone was breaking the lock.
Fosu fled his office at the corner of 18th and Kalorama Streets NW and headed to his Dorchester House apartment on 16th Street, across from Meridian Hill Park.
On his way, he encountered two police officers and told them what was happening. They agreed to meet him there shortly.
Upon entering his apartment, he learned that the intruder was actually a building manager who’d been accompanied by another police officer, Kathleen Coffey, as identified by documents forwarded to City Paper by Jonathan Lave, Fosu’s lawyer. When the two other policemen arrived shortly, they declined to help Fosu, figuring the manager had good reason to be there, Fosu alleges. And that was it.
“There were three police officers involved—none of them knew what the law was,” says Lave. So what is it?
A few weeks ago, Housing Complex chronicled the Dorchester House’s often-troubling and disruptive installation of individual HVAC units in 500 apartments, including Fosu’s, where he lived with his wife and children. He fought, but then grudgingly accepted, the installation, and was given a temporary unit to stay in while the construction took place.
When Borger Management told him the project was done and he should move back into his old apartment, Fosu took a look around and told Borger the project wasn’t done at all: His place was covered in dust, his custom paint job was ruined, and the space still resembled a construction zone, he alleges. He refused to move until the situation improved.
But a building manager—the guy his friend thought was breaking in—showed up at his temporary unit anyway and started moving out management-owned furniture, according to Fosu.
There’s no law on the books regarding landlord visits, according to Delores Anderson of the D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate. Some leases stipulate landlords must provide 24- or 48-hour advance notice. Otherwise, landlords should provide reasonable notice about any upcoming visits, or enter only if there’s an emergency.
After hearing what happened, Anderson remarked: “I would probably encourage him to consult with an attorney. Because even though the police officer escorted the manager, I don’t know if the police officer had the right to come into the property. And there was no reason for the manager to come into the property—unless there was an emergency.”
Fosu, a lawyer for the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, turned to a colleague for assistance, who appealed for a police investigation. In late March, Cathy Lanier, the police chief, replied that the allegations were serious enough to warrant an inquiry. And on May 12, the Office of Police Complaints assigned the case to an investigator.
Image by Darrow Montgomery