Overview of District Housing Regulations & Most Frequent Complaints

A few questions have come up in recent days about whether bug screens are required in rental housing. The answer is yes from March 15 to November 15. We compiled a list of the most frequent housing code violations. Take a look at the list or print copy and walk around your house or apartment.

Hope this helps.

If your landlord says “that’s not the law,” you can request a copy of the DC Housing Code by contacting the Housing Inspection Section of the Housing Regulation Administration at DCRA at (202) 442-4400.If you email us, we will arrange for a copy to be sent to you as well.

Below are examples of the most frequent complaints.

Inside the Apartment
  • Bathrooms: A bathroom must be private and ventilated, it must have a bathtub or shower, toilet, sink with hot (at least 120 degrees) and cold running water, and it must have a waterproof floor and wall base.
  • Cleanliness: Apartments must be free of insects, rats, and mice. Apartments must also be free of dirt, dust, cobwebs, garbage, and litter at the time of move-in. Tenants are responsible for keeping their apartments clean after they move in.
  • Insects: Insects such as roaches, ants, water bugs, etc. are prohibited.
  • Doors: Doors must not be blocked, must open and close easily (particularly emergency exits and fire doors), and must fit reasonably well within their frame. Knobs and locks must be in good working
  • Electricity: Each apartment or house must have two separate electrical outlets per habitable room (one of which must be a wall or floor convenience outlet), wires with good insulation, and correct fuses.
  • Fire Safety: Lighted fire exit signs, fire extinguishers, and a fire alarm system.
  • Floors: Floors must be clean, sound, waterproof, and level. Cracks, holes, splinters, and rat or mouse holes are prohibited.
  • Heat: If a tenant cannot control heat settings within the unit, the landlord must insure heating equipment maintains the temperature at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night in all occupied rooms and bathrooms.
  • Hot Water: Water temperature must reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Kitchens: All facilities provided by the landlord for cooking, storage, or refrigeration of food must be maintained in a safe and good working condition. The kitchen sink must have hot and cold running water.
  • Paint: Paint must not be peeling or flaking and must not contain exposed lead paint.
  • Plumbing: Leaky plumbing is prohibited. Each apartment must have hot and cold running water in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Privacy: Each apartment must have a door to an outside hallway or the street. Bathrooms must permit privacy; tenants must be able to get to the bathroom and bedrooms without going through another bathroom or bedroom.
  • Security: Tenants must be able to lock the apartment from both the outside and inside. Building entrances must have locks.
  • Space: At least 70 square feet is required for each room used for sleeping by one tenant over 1 year old. For rooms used by 2 or more tenants for sleeping, there must be at least 50 square feet for each tenant. Under the DC Human Rights Act (not the Housing Code), it may be considered unlawful discrimination if a landlord tries to evict a family with children in order to limit the number of tenants living in the apartment. For purposes of the Human Rights Act, in general up to 2 persons are allowed in an efficiency, 3 persons in a one bedroom, 5 persons in a two bedroom, and 7 persons in a three bedroom.
  • Stairs: Stairs must be firm and secure with good railings and good lighting. Obstructions are prohibited.
  • Walls and Ceilings: Holes, wide cracks, or peeling paint, plaster, or wallpaper is prohibited.
  • Windows: Windows must have screens from March 15 to November 15. Windows must open and close easily, must contain glass without cracks or holes, and must be without air or water leaks.
Outside the Apartment
  • Cleanliness: All walks must be free of dirt, garbage, litter, rats, mice, and insects. The grass must be cut.
  • Foundation: The foundation must have sound joints between the bricks and stones. Holes and cracks are prohibited.
  • Porches: Porches must have safe and secure floors and railings.
  • Roof: The roof must have gutters, drains, and down spouts that do not leak. Roof leaks are prohibited.
  • Stairs and Steps: Stairs and steps must be evenly spaced with railings. Tripping hazards or obstructions are prohibited.
  • Trash: Waterproof plastic or metal covered trash cans must be provided. Grounds and walks must be free of junk, trash, and litter.
    Walkways: Walkways must be free of obstructions and trash. Holes in the sidewalk are not permitted.
  • Walls: Walls must be waterproof and clean. Holes, cracks, and mouse or rat holes are not permitted.
  • Water: Flooding in yards, walks, basements as well as damp walls and floors are not permitted.
  • Wood Surfaces: Wooden walls, doors, and windows must be painted. Peeling paint is not permitted.

3 thoughts on “Overview of District Housing Regulations & Most Frequent Complaints

  1. Tara Murphy

    This is extremely helpful. Navigating dc.gov websites is a nightmare. Send their webmasters back to the middle ages. compare to l.a. county superior court’s site for e.g. I filled out an ‘online’ application form for a summer job in d.c. and after all the exasperating trip-ups that I had to correct multiple times, i finally go to the end and the ‘submit’ button was in a coma. and never snapped out of it after multiple attempts to send my application. VERY user-unfriendly. Same goes for most federal agency websites. I could cover my walls with the number of dead links i encounter, or redirects to vacant pages. No wonder Obama encountered 8-9 year old windows software in the WH, and couldn’t get email for TWO HOURS. To me that would be an inconvenience, but he’s the President of the U.S. forgawdsakes.

    Unimpressed in D.C.

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