Crunch Time – DCRA Can Help if You’re Renting Last Minute

Chances are that if you don’t have an off-campus apartment in DC for this fall, you are scrambling, freaking out and willing to take just about anything near campus. You’re scouring Craigslist and other apartment listing services. These sites are great, but what they don’t do is filter. Anyone and everyone can post whatever they want without much recourse. You get what you get. This is crunch time and you might settle for something that is ugly. That’s fine. You might settle for something small. Chances are that’s fine too. But what you don’t want is something that’s unsafe.

Part of the reason the District of Columbia requires landlords to get licensed isn’t because we get just get a check – in fact, the licensing is not a money-raising venture for DCRA. The key reason is that for the license to be approved, the landlord needs to have an inspection of the property. Are there two exits in case there’s a fire? Is there smoke alarms? Does the plumbing leak? Here is a list of just the simple items we look for. You can print and take that list with you when you check out the place.

We know you’re in a rush to get into something. But please, please at least ask your landlord if he is licensed by DCRA. Or you can look up all licensed rental properties through our main Website here. There is a guide that shows you what type of rental license you need to be looking for. If your potential apartment isn’t listing, ask the landlord why. Ask him the last time it was inspected. Show him the checklist. This sounds annoying, we know. But you are going to sleep in someone’s house you don’t know and if he can’t answer simple questions, then how he will respond later. Just something to think about. Most of the landlords in DC are great and most have licenses from DCRA. Now is the time that those who just want to make a quick buck prey upon the thousands students who arrive every fall.

So look up the apartment and ask some questions. This will at least offer a little filtering of the places you’ll see online. If you have any questions, email us, tweet us or chat with us on Facebook. We’re here 24 hours a day to answer any questions or help give you some guidance on your search. Good luck. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs can help.

And to those landlords who are not licensed. It’s not too late, you won’t be penalized and it is a simple and quick process. Here is a fact sheet. And you too can email ustweet us or chat with us on Facebook. We want students and all residents to be safe. We are inspecting all rental units in the District over the next few years so you might as well do the right thing and get licensed and inspected now and keep the students you’re renting safe. Keep your property safe.

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Support National Campus Fire Safety Month

NationalFireSafety2009

This is an extra special message to all colleges and universities here in the District. Many of you are getting ready for graduation and taking summer courses–maybe even working a summer job.  But, we’d like for you to take a moment to consider supporting National Campus Fire Safety Month, which will officially kick off on September 17th, shortly after many of  you return from summer break.  It runs the entire month of September.  So, start putting your plans together now, including whether you want to host any special events to educate your peers about fire safety.  The summer will have come and gone before  you know it and it’s best to at least have an idea of how you want to honor the month before you leave for break.

This will mark the fifth year of National Campus Fire Safety Month and organizers are making a big push on Capitol Hill.  They are hoping Congress will assist them in urging schools to host fire safety courses for students.  Over 80 percent of the college students who have died in fires have met their end in off-campus  housing.  Daniel Rigby, a Georgetown University student, died in a fire in off-campus housing he was renting back in 2004.  His family and friends have been honoring his life with an annual 5k run and ball for the past five years.

“The value of National Campus Fire Safety Month comes from everyone joining together, both in Washington and across the nation, to make students, parents, schools and communities aware of the importance of fire safety on our campuses,” said Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch. 

This year’s motto for National Campus Fire Safety Month is “Fire Safety — It’s Part of Living” and it couldn’t be more appropriate.  Fire safety is a matter of life and death and DCRA wants the time spent by every student visiting the District for higher learning to be safe and enjoyable.  So, start thinking about how you want to take part in National Campus Fire Safety month and let us know what you guys are doing!  We’d love to partner with you, highlight some of the things you are doing or just support your efforts in general.  Don’t forget to take a look at the wealth of information right here at thisshouldbeillegal.com and let us know if there’s something else you think we should post.  We’d love to hear it.  We will be continuing our own crusade to educate students about fire safety.

Check out the heart-wrenching video below of the father of a Miami University student who was killed in an off-campus house fire back in 2005.  It’s a story no parent should have to tell…..

Run For Rigby, Increase Awareness

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This weekend, take part in what is becoming a powerful, annual tradition here in the District–  the 5k Run for Rigby and Rigby Ball, started to commemorate the life of Georgetown University student Daniel Rigby.  Rigby died during a fire in a room he was renting in and off-campus house in 2004.  The Friends of Rigby Foundation was  started to honor his memory and to raise “awareness about student safety as well as donating scholarships to the needy to further Dan’s scholarly pursuits and his belief in volunteering to assist the less fortunate.”

This Saturday, the Rigby Weekend festivities will kick off to honor his life five years after that tragic fire.  Here is a snapshot of what you can expect if you want to participate: 

NON-STUDENT:  Combo Run for Rigby + Rigby Ball
Date/Time: 4/4/2009 @ 2pm & 9:30pm respectively
Location: Georgetown Red Square & Union Station Thunder Grill
Price: $85 Buy Tickets Now
Notes: Combo ticket includes both events. 

NON-STUDENT: Rigby Ball
Date/Time: 4/4/2009 @ 9:30pm-12:30am
Location: Thunder Grill @ Union Station, Washington DC
Price: $80 Buy Tickets Now

STUDENT: Combo Run for Rigby + Rigby Ball
Date/Time: 4/4/2009 @ 2pm & 9:30pm respectively
Location: Georgetown Red Square & Union Station Thunder Grill
Price: $75 Buy Tickets Now
Notes: Student tickets will require a valid ID upon check-in.

Combo ticket includes both events.

STUDENT: Rigby Ball
Date/Time: 4/4/2009 @ 9:30pm-12:30am
Location: Thunder Grill @ Union Station, Washington DC
Price: $65 –
Buy Tickets Now
Notes:

Student tickets will require a valid ID upon check-in.

Run for Rigby
Date/Time: 4/4/2009 @ 2pm
Location: Red Square – Georgetown University, Washington DC
Price: $15 –
Buy Tickets Now
Notes: 5K Race through Georgetown U. and surrounding neighborhood.

Ticket fee includes T-Shirt, Fire Safety cup, and GUGS grilled food after the Race.

If you take part in the event, email us some pictures and we’ll post them here!  This is a great cause and every year, a number of students across the country die in fires in off-campus housing. It doesn’t have to happen and raising awareness about students’ rights as renters as well as offering fire safety tips are two of the greatest ways to help prevent these tragedies.

Two Great Ways to Raise Awareness on Rental Housing Safety

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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.


Remember Cody Blue

 

the-rock

‘We found the smoke alarms in the closet outside

Cody’s room after the fire, still in the package’

We recently received an email from the mother of a student who attended N.C. State University – his name was Cody Blue. He rushed his freshman year and moved into the one of the fraternity’s duplex houses soon afterward. The house had a total of eight fraternity brothers -two in the basement.

Here’s what happened:

Cody went to the house after work that Thursday night and spoke to the tenants who were gathered on the other side of the duplex. He went to his room sometime after 11:00 p.m. His last phone call was from his girlfriend right after midnight. He was scheduled to work the next morning. In the house that night were several guests, on the middle floor under Cody’s room, playing pool and drinking. The last four people left after 4:30 a.m. 

The other side of the duplex had sufficient alarms, ladders, extinguishers. The occupant of Cody’s side in the basement who had a alarm, escaped. The occupant whose bedroom was beside Cody’s, jumped from the back window of his bedroom (three flights down.)

The cause of the fire was a discarded cigarette that was thrown or had fallen into a love seat and combusted. The pine walls in the 1965 house acted like kindling. We found the smoke alarms in the closet outside Cody’s room after the fire, still in the package.

Fire alarms found still in boxes
Fire alarms found still in boxes

 

Around 6:30 a.m., a fire erupted in the house and spread quickly up the stairs on Cody’s side of the house. According to reports the fire department arrived at 6:30 a.m. to find the house engulfed in flames. Cody and another young man were trapped on the second floor and both died from smoke inhalation. 

Our hearts go out to the Blue family and we thank Cody’s mother for reaching out to us. But more importantly she has turned this tragedy into something good – the Cody Blue Foundation. There are many reasons a home – old or new – can injure or kill. We want to be sure the students of the District of Columbia have the knowledge to know where their fire alarms are or where to get them if they don’t have them. And we want them to know their house has been inspected and is safe.

Help us. Get started now.

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