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:

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 

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.

GW University Students Gear Up to Move Off-Campus

gw_offcampushousing_030309-0051Last night, reps from DCRA paid a visit to the campus of George Washington University to take part in their annual off-campus housing fair.  We attended one of these already this year at American University and we plan on attending the off-campus housing fairs of any campus that will allow us to participate. We’ll be heading to Howard University next Friday (13th!) from 12pm to 2pm to pass out information to students there about how to safely choose an apartment here in the District.

 A lot of you are already checking out apartments around the city for next year as the semester rapidly reaches the midway point and we want to make sure you don’t get caught in a bad situation–horrible landlord and a crappy place.  If your university is having an off-campus housing fair and you’d like for us to come out, drop us a line or hit us up in the comments and let us know so we can be sure to make it out.  Many students who attend colleges and universities in the District are pretty far away from home and it’s important that your parents can rest easy that you are living in a safe environment.  It’s important that you feel that you are living in a comfortable and safe environment.

Always feel free to shoot us an email or send us a Tweet and we’ll do whatever we can to help you before you make one of the biggest decisions of your life–moving into your place.

The Story of Our Waterbottles

Front of Waterbottle
Front of Waterbottle

The thousands of waterbottles we are distributing across the District’s college campuses are made from 80 percent recycled materials and are made in the United States. They are also BPA-free which means the no chemicals are leached into the water like Nalgene’s hard plastic bottles. Use them in class, at the gym, or just hanging out at home. Everytime someone sees them, it will help make your neighborhood safer.

Welcome Back GW. See Story in Today’s Hatchet

Welcome back George Washington University students. Be sure to grab a copy of today’s Hatchet to see our ad and read the story about our efforts.

The team will be on campus today and tomorrow handing out information and posting fliers. Please take a few minutes to glance at the postings below. There is a ton of information here already and we need your feedback.

Sign into your Facebook account and join our group where you can post videos, photos or just comment on the conditions at your off-campus home. Be sure to sign into your Facebook account first. Or just become a fan.

The goal of this effort is to ensure all college students living off campus have had their house or apartment inspected and that their landlord is licensed. If you click here, you can investigate your landlord by name or address. Email us if you have any questions.

Thanks again. If you are a member of a student group, scroll down see how you can help your classmates. We’ll create individualized posters and other materials for you. Have a great first day back GW.

Got a comment? Let us hear it.

Students: Create Your Own Campaign

Over the past two weeks, has been contacted by several student groups who want to help with this initiative. And we said: when can you start? We want as much help as we can get.

So … here is your Starter Kit. On this page you will find links to promotional posters for Howard University, Georgetown University, University of the District of Columbia and The George Washington University. You can tape them onto light poles, or tack into your campus bulletin boards. They come up as PDFs and feel free to print as many as you want.

If your school is not listed below or you can  think of something else that  might be helpful or you would like to put your logo or organizations name on a flier, we will make it for you and email it to you directly. Email us your logo and we’ll send you a special individualized poster.

We would also be happy to come speak to your group or at one of your events to highlight the importance of housing safety.

This is a great effort for student organizations, fraternities and sororities, or just a group of friends to do some philanthropy targted at their peers.

NOTE: To comment, click here and talk back to us.