When she moved in, the room was her safe haven. Grace had fled in the middle of the night bearing two black eyes, two suitcases, and hardly two dollars to her name. It felt like the only way. The police had stopped coming when she called and Jackson would find her if she didn’t leave immediately. So there she was.
Even in the beginning, the room looked like a mess. A recent fire had left black smoke on the walls and a broken window that she couldn’t replace. At night, she could hear rats scurrying overhead and the front door didn’t lock. Even so, she was safe; that’s what mattered.
Over the next year, Grace began to realize that her landlords weren’t very interested in staying in touch. The woman who owned the house moved to Washington, leaving her brother, Isaac, as caretaker. Isaac began slowly sectioning off parts of the house to other tenants. Grace routinely came home to find someone living in the basement closet. By her second year, Isaac began renting the kitchen to a large family, forcing her to use a hot plate to cook her meals.
With all of the people living in the house, the rat infestation exploded. At any given moment Grace would notice a rodent in the corner of her eye. She tried to ignore it but worried about what would happen when they grew even bolder.
In the third year, the appliances started going. Within the first quarter, Grace lost access to electricity, water, and heat in her room. She began taking buckets to her neighbor’s house so that she could flush her toilets every few days. Grace approached her landlord and even contacted the Department of Building Inspectors, who deemed the apartment uninhabitable. Nevertheless, her landlord remained silent. Nothing changed. Unable to afford other apartments, Grace knew that she was trapped.
That’s when she heard about Open Door Legal. Upon visiting our office, she immediately began working with our housing attorneys and pro bono lawyers from the Veen Firm. Our attorneys informed her that the law requires landlords to repay their clients for rent paid while the building was uninhabitable. According to these conditions, Grace should be able to receive all of the rent that she paid over the three years living in the room. This lump sum would enable her to put a downpayment on a new apartment. Will you help us find a true safe haven for Grace?