DCRA Live Chat Today 5/14 at 2 p.m. for #BuildingSafetyMonth

Join DCRA Chief Building Official Don Masoero today, May 14, 2010, at 2 p.m. to discuss building inspections and building safety by going to dcra.dc.gov/chat . We will go for at least an hour. Please come join us. If you’re on Twitter, send questions and use #buildingsafetymonth in your tweet and we’ll see it or just send a message to @DCRA.

Thank You To The HOYA for Helping DCRA Reach Students

Georgetown University’s The Hoya had two great pieces highlighting the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) efforts to ensure all rental properties are license and, even more importantly, inspected for safety.

Be sure to take a look at the original story here and the Hoya Editorial Board also wrote a piece here.

We’ve said this many times, but DCRA wants all residents to have safe housing. By requiring a license and making an inspection mandatory before a license is issued, everyone has cleaner, safer homes and neighborhoods.

Students, please talk to your landlord or look up your address yourself and get in contact with us if you feel your rental has violations. Print off our checklist and do a walk-through yourself if you’re hesitant to get the city involved.

posted by Mike Rupert, DCRA

DCRA Director Argo Hosting Online Chat on Thursday 12/17

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Director Linda Argo is hosting an online chat on Thursday, November 17th from noon to 1 p.m. to answer any and all questions you have. If you think you might forget click here and you can sign up for a reminder. Ms. Argo will discuss our new proactive inspections program, heating regulations and anything else you need answers on.

Hope to see you all there.

– Mike Rupert

Lots of Questions on DC Security Deposit Regulations. DCRA Has Answers.

It’s been about three weeks since a lot of students in DC moved from their summer apartments and houses and into their school year place. So the big question we’re receiving lately is: Where is my money?

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.


309.1 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.

Getting Ready for School? DCRA Is Too.

Alright, so you probably don’t need an entire month to get ready before you get back to campus, but DCRA is already getting ready to greet you. We’re getting on the schedules for all ‘Welcome Back’ campus events and will be taking names and addresses for inspections. If you’re planning to live off-campus, chances are you’ve already found a place and hopefully you used our inspections checklist to make sure the place was safe. If you have a few minutes, please either you or your parents do a quick search on the house or apartment you’re renting to make sure the landlord is licensed. If they are listed, that means the unit has been inspected. If they are not, you need to ask them ‘why not?.’ Now is the time to do the homework. It’s not too late to get the place licensed and, most importantly, inspected.

DC Landlords, if you’re renting to students and not licensed, please come see us immediately. Getting licensed and inspected is a fairly simple process and we’ll help walk you through it. It is essential that we get all off campus housing inspected. You can get information on licensing a single home or condo, a basement apartment, or an apartment building on dcra.dc.gov.

Since launching this initiative we has done hundreds of inspections of properties where students contacted us directly. Please take a few minutes while you have the time and make sure you’re safe.

Two Great Ways to Raise Awareness on Rental Housing Safety


When DCRA first started this online project to reach students, we met Georgetown’s Assistant Director for Off-Campus Student Life Ray Danieli. Ray has been a champion of thisshouldbeillegal.com and is a major reason we are getting dozens of inspection requests and many applications from landlords to become licensed every week.

We are approaching 15,000 unique views to our site and more than half of those visiting our using our landlord search application. 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.

Back to Ray. One of the reasons this campaign exists is because of the tragic death of Georgetown student Daniel Rigby in a house fire – a fire that may have been prevented had the property been inspected.  Ray and others helped us to spread the word that DC will help, we just need you to contact us. DCRA is now going to inspect all rental properties whether we ever receive a complaint – a huge improvement for us lead by Director Linda Argo. While proactive inspections will minimize these tragic circumstances, we still need all of your eyes and ears out there in your and your friends rental properties.

The memory of Mr. Rigby continues to live on through his foundation Friends of Rigby Foundation and the Rigby Run.

The foundation is holding two events over the next few months and we ask everyone to please visit the sites and volunteer in anyway you can. Here are the details:

Rigby Weekend
Date/Time:    4/4/2009 @ TBA
Location:    Georgetown University and Thunder Grill @ Union Station
Price:    TBA
Notes:    Run will take place on Saturday mid-afternoon with the Ball following that night. More info to be posted shortly.

3rd Annual St. Patricks Day Party
Date/Time:    3/14/2009 @ 8pm-12am
Location:    Rosie OGradys, NYC
Price:    $80 – Buy Tickets Now
Notes:    Tickets are $80 in advance, $100 at the door.

Open bar, food, dj and dancing are included. The St. Patrick’s event is an open party. Please feel free to pass this along as all are welcome.

Please support these events and if anyone reading has other events we can highlight, volunteer for or sponsor, please let us know. We are mandated, but also dedicated to provide safe housing for everyone in the District and we will do anything to spread the word as far and wide as possible. Also a hat tip to Dave at the blog whyihatedc for mentioning our efforts in his recent post. Dave went to school with Mr. Rigby.

thisshouldbeillegal.com discussed with Radio@Firehouse.com

Radio@Firehouse.com Host Ed Comeau discusses thisshouldbeillegal.com with DCRA.

Listen to podcast here.

List to whole thing or skip to 16:15. The interview was conducted by Ed Comeau who also writes for campus-firewatch.com. Ed was one of our early supporters. Please check out his site for amazing information for campus and off-campus fire safety.

Firefighters Get UMD Students Drunk in the Name of Fire Safety

In hopes of getting important data and raising awareness, students at the University of Maryland spent a recent weekend drinking beer and then weaving around a dorm room. Researchers are hoping their efforts last Sunday will help save the lives of college students in the future.

“The purpose is to gather data that illustrates the relationship between alcohol consumption and students’ ability to get out of a simulated fire,” explained Andrew K. Pantelis, Vice President of Prince George’s County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association to Campus Firewatch.

From the story:

Study participants, aged 21 to 26, were asked to make their way through a darkened mock dorm room filled with a non-toxic fog to stimulate smoke. As the day progressed, students consumed controlled amounts of alcohol and were asked to go through the mock room over and over again.

Students performed each cycle with blood alcohol contents of .03, .06, .09 and .12. All participants were equip with safety equipment like helmets and knee pads, each participant had at least one safety officer assigned to them.

A member of the University of Maryland Police Department was on hand to measure blood alcohol content. Members of Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department evaluated the students after each cycle.

Pantelis said he hopes to take what he learns from the study, the first of its kind, and use it to teach incoming college kids about the dangers of drinking, specifically in the event of a fire.

Thanks for Noticing Us, New York Times.

The efforts of the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and its thisshouldbeillegal.com campaign were featured in the New York Times today. Check it out. It’s been a good week for us. We’re approaching 10,000 hits since we launched in late September and this week we’ve received phone calls from universities in South Carolina and Texas on how to replicate what we’re trying to do for the students in the District of Columbia.

We can’t say this enough. Our goal is to make sure housing is safe in the District – whether we get involved or not. We’ve got tools to do your own inspections, tips for planning escape routes, link to request free smoke detectors and installation from DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and much, much more. Mayor Fenty and DCRA Director Linda Argo are committed to do whatever it takes. And not just for students. Every District resident has the ability to use our services. And as you can see from the story in the NY Times and the features on this blog, we are getting results.

So, if you live in the District, use any of the communications tools we have to let us your know your problems and we will do our best to resolve them as quickly as possible. Try us on Facebook, Twitter, email us or call 202-442-4513 and we’ll get working right away. Or call 202-442-9557 first thing Monday morning and request an inspection immediately.

Let’s keep the momentum going.

Welcome Back Students.

Weclome to thisshouldbeillegal.com, the DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs new social media campaign aimed at giving college students living off-campus the information and tools to make their lives safer. We officially launched yesterday, but we’ve already been busy compiling important information on fire safety, compelling videos and tools to help you make sure you are being rented to legally.

We hope this information is useful. And we can’t emphasize enough that our goal is to make your lives safer, not to intrude or disrupt. Please take a few minutes to review the material and consider joining our conversation happening on Facebook and Twitter.