Ann Arbor Bans Porch Couches #TSBI

The City of Ann Arbor in Michigan recently passed a ban on having couches on the front porches of homes – specifically targeting college neighborhoods. Why? According to city statistics cited by annarbor.com, there have been 373 fires since 2003 in multi-family residential dwellings in Ann Arbor. Of those, 21 percent “significantly involved” exterior upholstered furniture, either as the origin of the fire or in causing it to spread.

And the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved the couch ban recently in response to a fire earlier this year that killed a 22-year-old UM student. Authorities believe the fire was exacerbated by a porch couch. City fire officials have been lobbying the City Council for several years to approve the ban, calling porch couches a well-documented fire hazard. Ann Arbor joins several other college towns with porch couch bans already in place, including East Lansing, Kalamazoo, Mount Pleasant, Ypsilanti, and Marquette in Michigan, as well as Columbus, Ohio, and Madison, Wisconsin.

The District of Columbia does not have a ban on couches on the front porch and unlike Ann Arbor – where nearly all college neighborhood homes have front porches – city data does not show this trend here. But we wanted to bring this issue to your attention and urge caution if you have a couch on the porch or even indoors. If you purchase a couch – new or used – check the label to see how fire retardant it is before buying.

– Mike Rupert, DCRA

DCRA heading to American University at 10 am. See us at main quad. #TSBI

DCRA Heading to American University

DCRA’s outreach team is heading to American University to talk to students living off-campus about safety issues and those living off-campus about what to look for when they decide to leave the dorms. We are now in our 3rd year of this program and we appreciate all of the questions, comments, emails and phone calls. Our goal is to ensure all off-campus student housing is safe. It’s simple. So please, if you suspect your rental has issues, talk to your landlord and if they’re not responsive, call us. We have a ton of information above that can help you. Thanks again.

– Mike, DCRA

And follow us on Twitter if that’s your thing.

September is National Campus Fire Safety Month – Get Fire Safe

Welcome back to DC Students!

September is National Campus Fire Safety month with more than 28 states – and the District of Columbia – issuing proclamations to help bring awareness to unsafe conditions and activities on and off campus.

Five people died in the 2009-2010 academic year, continuing a downward trend that is good news.  All of the fatalities occurred in off-campus housing which is where over 80% of the 140 fire deaths since 2000 have occurred.

“With the tragic exceptions of 2006/2007 and 2007/2008, we are seeing a decline in the number of campus-related fire deaths,” said Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch.  “Each fire is a tragedy, but the fact that fire deaths are dropping is welcome news.  While I can’t say for certain what is causing this drop, I have to think it is related to the increased awareness of fire safety by schools, communities, students and parents. I can’t say enough about how much everyone is working to help make their communities and campuses fire-safe.”

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs started this blog and our outreach efforts in 2008 to bring awareness not only to fire safety issues in college housing, but also other building issues and violations that can affect the health of students.

Why should you care?

We know some of you may be hesitant to call the government to have an inspection or to report your landlord. We know this is a difficult decision. And while we highly recommend you see if your landlord has a license (put in your address and you click on licensing) and report any code violations, we have published the list of items our inspectors look for during a basic safety inspection.

You need to ask your landlord some tough questions if you see things that don’t look quite right. If you don’t get the response you were hoping for, contact us if you need help. More contact information is to the left.

We encourage EVERYONE, student or not, to use this information to learn your rights, understand the rules. Please contact us at anytime to get answers to your questions or call 202-442-9557 to schedule an inspection if you have issues with your apartment or home. And do an inspection yourself from time to time, even if your property is licensed.

Summer is nearly over. What You Need to Know about Getting Security Deposit Back.

Before you move into your new apartment for the next school, you undoubtedly want to get that security deposit back as quickly as possible from your last place. So what are the rules landlords and you need to follow?

Under DC law, landlords have up to 45 days from the date the lease ended to either return the security deposit or provide an itemized list of repairs/deductions that were made from the deposit. Having trouble getting your money back? Show them the law. And we’re pasting it below. Notice that if landlords do not make a “good faith” effort and fail to meet the regulation’s timeline, you are entitled to the entire security deposit back. DCRA doesn’t handle disputes between landlords and tenants on security deposit issues, but if you are having problems you should immediately contact the Office of the Tenant Advocate and let them know. They can help.

309 REPAYMENT OF SECURITY DEPOSITS TO TENANTS

309.1 Within forty-five (45) days after the termination of the tenancy, the owner shall do one of the following:
(a) Tender payment to the tenant, without demand, any security deposit and any similar payment paid by the tenant as a condition of tenancy in addition to the stipulated rent, and any interest due the tenant on that deposit or payment as provided in § 311; or
(b) Notify the tenant in writing, to be delivered to the tenant personally or by certified mail at the tenant’s last known address, of the owner’s intention to withhold and apply the monies toward defraying the cost of expenses properly incurred under the terms and conditions of the security deposit agreement.

309.2 The owner, within thirty (30) days after notification to the tenant pursuant to the requirement of § 309.1(b), shall tender a refund of the balance of the deposit or payment, including interest not used to defray such expenses, and at the same time give the tenant an itemized statement of the repairs and other uses to which the monies were applied and the cost of each repair or other use.

309.3 Failure by the owner to comply with § 309.1 and § 309.2 of this section shall constitute prima facie evidence that the tenant is entitled to full return, including interest as provided in § 311, of any deposit or other payment made by the tenant as security for performance of his or her obligations or as a condition of tenancy, in addition to the stipulated rent.

309.4 Failure by the owner to serve the tenant personally or by certified mail, after good faith effort to do so, shall not constitute a failure by the owner to comply with § 309.1 and

309.5 Any housing provider violating the provisions of this chapter by failing to return a security deposit rightfully owed to a tenant in accordance with the requirements of this chapter shall be liable for the amount of the deposit withheld, or in the event of bad faith, for treble that amount.

309.6 For the purposes of § 309.5, the term “bad faith” means any frivolous or unfounded refusal to return a security deposit, as required by law, that is motivated by a fraudulent, deceptive, misleading, dishonest, or unreasonably self-serving purpose and not by simple negligence, bad judgement, or an honest belief in the course of action taken.

DCRA Launches New Site, New Apps (and it’ll help students find safer housing)

DCRA launched a brand new website yesterday and, so far, it’s getting rave reviews.

http://dcist.com/2010/07/dcra_latest_to_get_new_dcgov_websit.php

http://www.thegeorgetowndish.com/the-latest/see-if-your-neighbors-landlord-has-license-rent

http://www.welovedc.com/2010/07/06/dcra-launches-one-stop-shop-for-property-info/

We’re still adding stuff and cleaning up some links, but it’s a good start.

But the reason for this post is to highlight our new PIVS application, which will allow you to search for whether or not your property is properly licensed, if it has a Certificate of Occupancy, what housing code violations have been issued and what permits and inspections have been done. The database goes back about 6-7 years, but will be a big help for folks.

So go to http://dcra.dc.gov and look for the PIVS icon right at the top under featured services. And let us know what you think. And take a look around the site.

Burleith Resident Creates Blog to Chronicle ‘Drunken’ Student Behavior

For the past two years, we’ve been working hard to get students to learn about building safety, to inspect their own homes, request city inspections and make sure they are renting from licensed landlords. We managed to get several hundred student properties inspected and as many new licenses have been issued. We are getting calls from students, parents and even professors about safety issues for of-campus student housing. While DCRA is not responsible regulating for student behavior – other than building safety issues – we do want to encourage all students to take as much responsibility for their actions as they have so far through our campaign. Try to be good neighbors. Try to clean up after yourselves. We’ve been so impressed with the initiative students have taken to make sure their off-campus housing is safe.

One Burleith resident has created a new blog to chronicle his experience living in the Georgetown area. What do you think of his effort? Let us know your thoughts. Will this work?

DCRA Heading To Howard University Tuesday for Off-Campus Housing Fair

Howard students, we’ll be on campus tomorrow morning and can answer any questions you may have about housing codes, help you find out if your landlord is licensed and any other questions you may have. Please stop by our booth. Where you live can be one of the most important decisions you make. Please be safe and learn what you need to ask your potential landlord before signing that lease.

Students: Campus Firewatch Coming to Capitol Hill, Needs Volunteers to tell Senators, Congressman Importance

Campus Firewatch, the leading national organization dedicated to campus/off-campus fire safety education, is coming to Capitol Hill on March 23, 2010 and is looking for volunteers to join them in talking to Senate and House offices about the importance of fire safety for the nation’s millions of college students. If you’re a student, parent, resident or just someone who is passionate about fire safety issues, please consider joining this important effort. Visit their site for more information and to sign up. There is no cost and it is a wonderful opportunity. From their site:

Since 2000, at least 136 people have died in campus-related fires. Here is a chance for students, parents, fire officials and fire safety advocates to make a difference for campus fire safety by working with Congress.

For the past 2 years we have been traveling to Capitol Hill and meeting with Members of Congress and their staff to discuss campus fire safety issues. As a result, the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know became law, proclamations have been passed in the U.S. House and Senate designating September as National Campus Fire Safety Month, the College Fire Prevention Act passed the House in 2008 and other important pieces of legislation have been introduced.

Be a part of this vital effort to make campuses safer across the nation by joining in this important project in Washington, DC. It is only one day…but what a day it is. See what other students, parents and fire safety advocates had to say about the 2009 trip by clicking on the video above or click here to learn more – or, are you ready to be a part and make a difference?

You can learn more about this projectsign up on our contact list or get in touch with us if you have any specific questions.