D.C. offers an Emergency Tenant Assistance Program that helps low-income tenants. Other federal programs (e.g., FEMA) may also provide additional assistance to tenants and landlords.
Under the Emergency Tenant Assistance Program, low-income tenants can apply to be considered for financial assistance for housing, including “to assist households faced with sudden, unavoidable displacement from a dwelling unit for reasons such as a fire or other disaster that occurred through no fault of the applicant.” Your income must be below 125% of the monthly federal poverty level according to household size. Tenants can find more information here: https://dhs.dc.gov/service/emergency-rental-assistance-program. D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-1703.
If a place is “unsafe or unsanitary” due to fire damage, tenants are free to move out and break leases under the implied warranty of habitability. Tenants should notify their landlord. D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-302.
Tenants and landlords may find federal programs and assistance from non-profits that have programs to help in the case of fires.
State and Local Laws
Laws differ heavily by state, county, and city. Use RenterPeace to see more specific laws for to a given apartment and to see comments from people in your area.
Documenting the Problem
For most problems, tenants should document their issues, notify their landlord (document this too!), and stay informed about their rights. Renterpeace is a free website that helps with each step of this process. Tenants use RenterPeace to more easily see applicable laws, track their problems, and much more. There's a reason RenterPeace was selected "Best of" legal apps for both Android and iOS. It also includes household management tools, like a chore manager and bill tracker. Try it - you don't even to login first.
Using Property Management
To stay updated and organized about the problems in their apartments, landlords should use a property management system. Many are expensive or have high setup fees, but using RenterPeace for landlords is free. It's complete with legal compliance tips targeted to their problems, maintenance tracking, tenant screening, money-saving grant information, and tenant chat. It makes managing properties easier and staying updated about status of rental properties a breeze. Try it today.