The sink in her closet fills up with milky, white water, which rises from the pipes below and smells like a sewer. In other tenants' apartments, radiators are sinking through the ceilings. There are rats and roaches, and gaping holes everywhere. One apartment is consumed by the smell of gas, and some windows in the building are painted shut.
No wonder building inspectors found 238 housing code violations at the five-story apartment building after checking just half the units in September. This has got to be a world record.
"That's the highest number I've ever heard," Tenants Union organizer Stephanie Sheerin says. "This is a really egregious caseÉ. Two-hundred-and-thirty-eight [violations] means they haven't been maintaining the building at all."
Vassil Dimitrov owns and manages the offending building, the Dover, at Sixth Avenue and Marion right next to the Madison Renaissance Hotel in downtown Seattle.
About 85 tenants live there. Most are young artists living on low budgets. Some pay $200 for tiny studios, and share a bathroom in the hallway. Others live with roommates and pay up to $1,000 for three or four bedrooms. The tenants have known about the problems with the building for years.
Each of the five apartments The Stranger saw during interviews last week had a gaping hole in the ceiling, mold on the walls from pipes that drip water, a leaky radiator sinking through the ceiling, or a strange black substance which oozed inside during the last storm. Dimitrov's attempts to fix these things only make them worse.
"If you're going to fix it, just fix it," says Paris. She's upset about the rotting, smelly goo Dimitrov spread over the tiles in her shower to prevent water from leaking into the lobby below. "At what point do you think no one's going to notice that you buttered [the shower tiles] an inch thick with junk that's not even supposed to go there?"
Paris was the one who called the city to complain about the building. During their two-day surprise inspection of 24 of the 45 apartments, the Department of Design, Construction, and Land Use (DCLU) reported roach infestation, missing shut-off valves for gas stoves, and so on.
The DCLU ordered Dimitrov to fix the problems by December 14. Inspectors will recheck the building after that date, and will fine Dimitrov if certain problems are not fixed. They will hand the case over to the City Attorney. Dimitrov has no other properties in his name (besides his home), and no history of code violations with the DCLU.
DCLU spokesperson Alan Justad won't say what amount of law-breaking is "normal" for landlords. But with a straight face he says, "This is higher than normal." He emphasizes that the DCLU doesn't know how the condition of the Dover compares to other buildings, as many violations go unreported. (It's a good thing this one came your way, huh Alan?) The City Attorney's office, which ultimately takes action in landlord-tenant disputes, wouldn't comment on whether or not they've seen this many violations before.
Despite numerous attempts to contact Dimitrov (at his $844,000 Mercer Island home) by phone and in person, he did not respond to The Stranger by press time. However, his lawyer Evan Loeffler, who hasn't seen the building, says, "the place is not perfect." But he adds that at least the inspectors didn't declare it a disaster area. He promises that Dimitrov will fix everything the DCLU found wrong.
That's not going to work for these tenants. They've seen Dimitrov's patch jobs, and they want the building to be maintained by professionals.
Paris has lived in the Dover for five years in a three-bedroom apartment that costs $990 a month. "I used to look at itÉ like it's cheap," Paris says. "But nowÉ I have given him so many tens of thousands of dollars." "I just don't even feel good living here."