Burleith Landlords: Are you legal? Get licensed and get inspected.

DCRA recently received a comprehensive list of 134 properties from a coalition of Burleith neighborhood groups who spent nearly two months of walking the neighborhood and verifying data using our online PIVS application to identify what they believe are illegal rentals.

We have sent letters to each of the property owners identified on the list asking them to please respond. If you received a letter and are not currently renting your property, we apologize for the inconvenience and please respond to discuss why you may have ended up on the list and get your property off our list. If you are renting your property, please contact us immediately and we can assist you in getting your property licensed and, most importantly, inspected. We will not assess fines if you voluntarily come in and begin the licensing and inspection process.

You can contact also us via email (bbl.infocenter@dc.gov) or by calling 202-442-4311.

If we do not hear from the property owners within the period stated in the letters – 15 business days from when it was mailed – DCRA will be sending investigators to your property and you could face thousands in fines if you are indeed operating an unlicensed and uninspected rental property. One of our top priorities is to ensure rentals are safe for tenants, neighbors and the neighborhood. And if you’re a student, please discuss the licensing and inspection issues with your landlord.

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.

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?

Georgetown Students Rallying to Keep Sidewalks Clear and Accessible

More than 100 Georgetown students signed up to help clear sidewalks around campus to make sure it remains accessible through a rally that began a few minutes ago. From their Facebook event announcement today:

“It’s clear that Facilities has been doing its best to keep up with the snow, but as totals mount, accessibility to all buildings has suffered. Wheelchair and alternative access routes have been conspicuously bad. With many differently-abled Hoyas here on campus, we have a responsibility to ensure that ALL Hoyas can get to their classes, residence halls, and facilities.”

Some alternatives being offered if students don’t have shovels:
– Old Leo’s trays (I’m sure some of you have them)
– Rakes
– Forks, knives, spoons (good for breaking up ice)
– Table salt

Anyone else hearing of other schools or neighborhoods getting organized liked this? Let us know in comments or tweets us @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

Letters Headed to Unlicensed Georgetown University Landlords

We’re going to be sending letters beginning Tuesday to more than 125 landlords around Georgetown University who we believe are operating without valid business license. They will be given 10 days to apply for the license and have their property inspected. We encourage all landlords to come in voluntarily before we have to take enforcement action. More details coming soon.

Update: For Washington Post Story on crackdown CLICK HERE

Landlords: Spaceheaters Cannot be Only Source of Heat in DC

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has received several calls from residents over the past week asking if it is legal for landlords to provide space heaters as the only source of heat. While using space heaters in and of itself is obviously not illegal, the District does not allow them to be the sole source of heat – they were not designed to be.

Without too much code/legal jargon, DCRA interprets the 2006 International Property Maintenance Code and 14 DC MR code is that when the space heater is turned off, the building heating facilities must maintain the minimum prescriptive temperature 68 degrees or 70 degrees. (IPMC 68 degrees F, 14 DCMR 501.2, 70 Degrees F). Here’s the code:

HEATING FACILITIES
602.1 Facilities required. Heating facilities shall be provided in structures as required by this section.602.2 Residential occupancies. Dwellings shall be provided with heating facilities capable of maintaining a room temperature of 68°F (20°C) in all habitable rooms, bathrooms and toilet rooms based on the winter outdoor design temperature for the locality indicated in AppendixD of the International Plumbing Code. Cooking appliances shall not be used to provide space heating to meet the requirements of this section.

Space heaters are not designed, per their listing, to be capable of maintaining room temperature in a dwelling. Space heaters are not to be confused with permanent wall mounted electric baseboard heating, when installed with a thermostat, and according to code, is accepted means of heat. So essentially, using a space heater to be the main source of heat is not that much different than using your stove in terms of how we enforce the law.

Many municipalities outright amend their codes to state “Space heaters shall not provide the minimum heat requirements in a dwelling…”. We rely on the interpretation of heating facilities, and that space heaters are not designed to heat an entire dwelling unit.

If you live in a rental unit using only space heaters this winter, we highly reccomend you contact your landlord and explain this to them. If they are not responsive, call 202-442-9557 or email us and schedule an inspection ASAP. 

Here are some other Winter Heating Safety Tips:

Electric Space Heaters
Keep space heaters 3 feet form furniture, bedding, clothing, walls or other things that burn. Use only heaters that have been tested and approved by U.L. or another respected testing lab. Make sure your space heater has an automatic shut-off feature for tip-overs. Do not use heaters that have worn or frayed cords or plugs. Use electrical outlets conservatively. Remember that overloaded circuits can cause fires. Never use kerosene heaters inside a house.

Fireplace & Woodstoves
Have your chimney inspected by a professional annually and have it cleaned as needed. Always use a fire screen. Spark arresters are required. Never leave children unattended around a fireplace or woodstove. Be sure the fore is out before going to bed or away from the house. Never burn trash, Christmas paper or trees in your fireplace or woodstove. When cleaning out the ashes, place them into metal containers only, and dampen slightly. Never store discarded ashes inside or adjacent your home. Woodstoves require a 36″ clearance form combustible surfaces. Woodstoves should be U.L. approved and installed pursuant to all applicable codes.

Electric Blankets
Follow manufacture guidelines regarding proper use, maintenance and replacement. Never leave the blanket on high for any exceeded period. Never bunch or wad the blanket up, or fold it in a heap. Turning you blanket off when you turn your alarm off is a simple, safe habit. Upon rising, smooth the blanket out flat to avoid concentrating the heat. Small children, invalids or the elderly should never use electric blankets because these persons have decreased abilities to sense high heat.

Kitchen Stoves & Ovens
Never use kitchen burners or the oven as heating devices. Remember that an electric burner, left on for extended periods, can reach a temperature of 1000 degrees, and can cause adjacent walls to ignite.

Tips Courtesy of Pierce Township, Ohio.

DC Colleges Must Provide Detailed Report on Fire Incidents

For the first time, students and parents will have access to detailed information about fire-related incidents, prevention measures and other fire safety information for the District of Columbia’s many colleges and universities after the U.S. Department of Education published final regulations for the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know provisions of the Higher Education Opportunity Act signed (The regulations can be downloaded from www.campus-firewatch.com). 

Starting in October 2010, schools with student housing will be required to annually report fire safety information to the U.S. Department of Education, including:

  • The number of fire-related fatalities and injuries
  • The number of fires and the damage they cause
  • Fire safety features of the residence halls including automatic fire sprinklers and fire alarm systems
  • Fire safety education provided to students

If your apartment of off-campus house does not have smoke alarms or has other safety issues, please call 202-442-9557 and schedule a safety inspection immediately.

DCRA: Coming to a Campus Near You

DCRA rep at Howard University, October 2008
DCRA rep at Howard University, October 2008

At this point, across the District, school is back in session.  By now, students are all settled in to their new apartments, fresh new towels and washclothes hanging on their bathroom racks.  Plush new rugs tossed onto floors with still creased from the package sheets fitted onto mattresses– adorned by vibrant new comforters.  But, are those landlords licensed!!!?  DCRA is going to help you make sure.

Yesterday, we headed to the Georgetown University’s campus for their Resource Fair and tomorrow, we’ll be paying a visit to the University of the District of Columbia’s campus.  We’ll be passing out information and answering any questions that students may have about their rental housing or landlords.  In the coming weeks, we hope to make it, at least once, to each of the campuses here in the District because this is vital information.

If you are renting a place from an unlicensed landlord, you could be putting yourself at grave risk.  Saving your life is more important than saving a few dollars.  Remember that.  While  you are here, check out the many resources offered at thisshouldbeillegal.com and tell your friends.

The first few weeks back at school can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time.  If  you are already dealing with off-campus housing woes, check to see if it’s something that we can help you with before you lose your cool.  And, if your college or university is having an event and you’d like for us to come out and hand out information and give your students a chance to ask questions with us, face to face, contact us using one of the methods in the “Contact Us” tab on the right side of the page.

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.