Jesse Jones: Tenants left high and dry by landlords after sewer water floods apartments

There is bath water flowing down from an apartment into Mia Lombardo Conklin’s unit.

Mia says her entire apartment is flooded, “I mean, for all the world, it was like a nightmare story. Like everything, every corner, crevice was just pouring.”Mia would have to deal with this situation off and on for more than a year. She says her landlord, Community Roots Housing, didn’t do enough to permanently stop the flooding in her Capitol Hill apartment caused by a resident upstairs.

I had to go to the bathroom with an umbrella because I would get rained on with dirty, moldy shower water. And it was gross and disgusting and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Different apartment, tenant, and yet another leak. Carrie Jo Daughtery’s apartment flooded out, her property management company, Mynd Management out of California, admits it didn’t even offer housing for five days afterwards.

Carrie says it was the 17-year-old hot water heater that had failed, emptying 50 gallons of water in every direction. I have no real recourse. I don’t have a financial safety net to get me into long term housing until I can recover the money that I’ve already invested in this space.” So, what are your rights when you’ve been flooded out?

If tenants have been flooded out due to a water pipe burst landlords aren’t required to move them to alternative housing. Joseph Jordan is an attorney with the non-profit Northwest Justice Project says you should get a city or county inspector to your place right away.

He says that if the rental is deemed uninhabitable or condemnable by the local government or the inspection authority, then the landlord is required to pay relocation assistance, “and that is up to three times, two times the monthly rent.”

But that may take some time. In Carrie’s case she says it took ten days to get someone from the city to inspect her unit. And while the law allows her to end her tenancy, she’s receiving payment notices from the property manager.

The solution here is for the city to adopt better regulations, any regulations of property management companies, specifically if they’re out of state, they must have an employee in the state or some exclusive agency for 24/7 emergency maintenance, and then they need better protections for tenants,” says Carrie.

State law says Landlords get 24 hours to fix hot or cold-water electricity or anything hazardous to life, like a sewer leak. It goes up to 72-hours when tenants can’t use a refrigerator, oven or a major plumbing fixture.

And 10 days for everything else. In Mia’s case, according to court documents, Mia’s first complaint about water leaking from the bathroom vent was in December 2021.

Her attorney says Mia took all the right steps, “she called, she went through the tenant portal. She called and emailed her property manager directly. She did everything that she could to try to get somebody to take care of the situation. And she did it multiple times.”

Court records show calls and complaints about flooding continued, but management didn’t fix anything until March. And court records allege apartment management didn’t get the resident causing the flooding out until Joe filed a lawsuit on Mia’s behalf nearly a year after her first complaint.

The things that they did in the days following when we filed the lawsuit, they should have done a year ago, in my opinion.”

By forcing her to live in such conditions Mia says Community Roots Housing treated her inhumanely, " When they no longer see you as a person, it’s easier ignore us.”

If the property is found unlawful to occupy the landlord must pay relocation assistance and any prepaid deposit and prepaid rent within a week.

Mynd Property Management apologized for the stress this has caused Ms. Daugherty. The company also regrets it did not arrange for alternative accommodations for her faster. Community Roots Housing declined to comment on Mia’s case. In court documents the group says it did not violate landlord tenant laws or breach Mia’s lease agreement.