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.

Turn Up the Heat!

Icicle

Students, today is the day when most landlords and buiding engineers across the District officially turn on heating systems in buildings that don’t allow tenants to control their own thermostats.  There isn’t a law that says landlords have to officially turn on the heat, but there is a law about how warm your building must be kept, at a minimum.  Heat must be kept at a temperature of at least sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (68° F) between 6:30 am and 11 pm.  Between 11 pm and 6:30 am, a building’s heat must be kept at a minimum temperature of sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit (65° F).

If you wake up with icicles hanging off your nose one morning in the coming days, there’s a good chance your building isn’t 65 or 68 degrees.  So, if you’ve contacted your landlord a call and you can’t seem to get any results, give us a call or reach out to us using one of the methods listed here at our site (Twitter, Facebook or email) and we’ll do what we can to help.

Feel Lost Dealing With Landlord/Tenant? Go to Multi-Door.

Over the past four months, we have received over 11,200 hits and one question we have seen recently is while DCRA can help with structural and safety issues, what about security deposits, dishwashers that won’t work, landlords changing rent without notice, absentee landlords? And landlords, you often ask about renters who refuse to take care of your home, late on rent etc.

There is a great service provided through the D.C. Superior Court called Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division (Multi-Door). This group helps parties settle disputes through mediation and other types of appropriate dispute resolution (ADR), including arbitration, case evaluation and conciliation.

The name “Multi-Door” comes from the multi-door courthouse concept, which envisions one courthouse with multiple dispute resolution doors or programs. Cases are referred through the appropriate door for resolution.

A renter we’ll call “DP” called about his washer, dryer and dishwasher not working either only sometimes or not at all. While DCRA is committed to doing everything within its power to assist you with issues and concerns in your neighborhood. However, some issues cannot be solved by DCRA. Many of these cases require assistance beyond our jurisdiction – DP’s for example.

If you feel you’ve reached the end of the road, go to Multi-Door.

Here are just some of the issues they can help with:

They Can Help:

  • If you have a consumer complaint: merchant, home improvement, auto repairs
  • If you have a landlord-tenant dispute: security deposit, repairs
  • If you have a complaint involving a neighbor: dogs, loud noises, trees and property
  • If you have a family dispute: custody, visitation, child support, divorce, spousal support, property
  • If you need information or a referral to legal, governmental or social services

What They Do:

  • Conduct an intake interview with you by phone or in person
  • Help you determine how you wish to resolve your dispute, including:
    • conciliation of appropriate disputes over the telephone
    • mediation between you and the other party with a mediator
    • information about other Multi-Door programs, such as family mediation
    • referral to agencies or services in the community that can address your specific need

How To Reach Multi-Door:
The Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division is located at 515 5th Street, N.W., Suite 114, Washington, DC 20001 (Please use the Police Memorial Entrance at Judiciary Square Metro Station).

If you would prefer to telephone before coming to the courthouse, please call (202) 879-1549 during business hours and ask to speak with a Dispute Resolution Specialist.

More Information:

And as always, check to see if your landlord is licensed and call us if you need help.

Is your landlord licensed? Find Out here.

If you need help knowing what to search for, click here.

When a property owner decides they want to rent a house, an apartment building or just a portion of their home, the District requires them to obtain a Basic Business License (BBL). This is one of the few ways that the city is able to ensure the property is safe to occupy and can be properly monitored. If gives you, the renters, and the landlord certain protections.

It also triggers an automatic inspection by the D.C. Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the D.C. Fire Marshall. If they don’t voluntary seek a BBL, we depend on people like yourselves to report these property owners and demand a housing inspection.

CONTACT US

It’s Cold. Call 311 if your heat goes out.

It’s freezing. It’s official. Landlords must be able to keep your apartment/house warm. And when landlords don’t respond, thisshouldbeillegal.com can help. We posted on this before, but then it went to 80 for a few weeks.

So here are the rules. If a tenant does not control setting heat in a unit, the building’s heat must be kept at a minimum temperature of sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (68° F) between 6:30 am and 11 pm. Between 11 pm and 6:30 am, a building’s heat must be kept at a minimum temperature of sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit (65° F).

While there is no law that says heat must be on by a certain date, building engineers traditionally convert their systems from cooled to heated air on October 15 — and from heated to cooled air on May 15. District law does require that minimum temperatures be maintained in living areas during cold weather regardless of the calendar date.

DCRA has distributed thousans fliers to apartment buildings across the District over the next week to remind tenants of the law and landlords of their obligation. Tenants can download and print informational fliers – in English and Spanish – for their building, tenant association or neighbors here.

Tenants without adequate heat are asked to report the condition to their landlords immediately. If they do not respond, tenants are urged to report violations by calling (202) 442-9557.

DCRA will dispatch an inspector and landlords could be fined up to $1,000 and other potential penalties and fees if found to be in violation of the heating laws.

Thanks Students. Tell Howard Officials You Need Our Help.

Well. We got asked to leave Howard’s campus today. Several Howard officials unfortunately asked us to leave campus despite the fact students were excited to get the information on making their homes safer. We were handing out information on housing code violations, inspections and heat regulations, but since we didn’t have permission, we were asked to leave. Here are some pics.

We have tried to work with Howard’s student affairs and provost’s office, but have received no response since we launched in September. Can someone from Howard call us now to allow us on campus so students can feel safe and warm in their homes? We have received dozens and dozens of calls from students seeking our help. Two properties are actually going through some serious investigations. We don’t name names, but students you know who you are. Talk to us and our readers. They need to know that we respond quickly and have made off-campus housing and neighborhoods safer. And Howard University, please return our calls.

And don’t forget to look up your landlord and see if they have a license? Click here to get started.

Howard. We’re coming to you again. Look for us on Wednesday.

 

Hey Howard Students,

We’re on our way on tomorrow at noon until 3 p.m. We’ll have some helpers from Best Buy with some giveaways. We’ll also be collecting names, addresses and cell numbers from people who need inspections and we’ll get them scheduled. Our biggest focus right now is making sure you have heat. Check this out and give us a call. When it’s cold and your heat isn’t working, you’ll probably set up pace heaters. So let’s get the heat fixed first. Then click here to make sure you have working smoke detectors. The DC Fire and Emergency Management Agency will install them for free for all DC residents – including students.

Staying Warm in the District. We can help.

It’s getting cold and it’s only going to get colder. In the District, landlords must be able to keep your apartment/house warm. And when landlords don’t respond, thisshouldbeillegal.com can help.

Essentially, If a tenant does not control setting heat in a unit, the building’s heat must be kept at a minimum temperature of sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (68° F) between 6:30 am and 11 pm. Between 11 pm and 6:30 am, a building’s heat must be kept at a minimum temperature of sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit (65° F).

While there is no law that says heat must be on by a certain date, building engineers traditionally convert their systems from cooled to heated air on October 15 — and from heated to cooled air on May 15. District law does require that minimum temperatures be maintained in living areas during cold weather regardless of the calendar date.

DCRA will be distributing fliers to apartment buildings across the District over the next week to remind tenants of the law and landlords of their obligation. Tenants can download and print informational fliers – in English and Spanish – for their building, tenant association or neighbors here.

Tenants without adequate heat are asked to report the condition to their landlords immediately. If they do not respond, tenants are urged to report violations by calling (202) 442-9557.

DCRA will dispatch an inspector and landlords could be fined up to $1,000 and other potential penalties and fees if found to be in violation of the heating laws.