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

Safety Outreach: One Campus at a Time

This Should Be Illegal

Yesterday, we headed over to Howard University–well, one of the sidewalks near Howard University–in order to pass out information to the students who live off-campus.  We didn’t want to cause any problems for ourselves by doing something crazy like visiting the campus without an invitation and using washable spray chalk to give students information.  Who’d do a thing like that?!

So, we visited the campus and passed out information from the public space about This Should Be Illegal to students so that they could be aware of the services that the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs offers to District residents.  We hope to soon be invited again to an official campus event at Howard U so that we can reach out to even more students.

We made a beeline over to Catholic University’s campus to see if we could find a good public space area to reach out to students, but we were unable to find a good flow of foot traffic there.  So, Catholic U, we are still waiting for that invitation to come out and give your students this valuable information!

Also, not to be missed are photos from the kickoff of National Campus Fire Safety Month, which we participated in on Capitol Hill last week.  The event was well-attended and at times, quite emotional as the mother of a student killed in an off-campus fire told her story.

If your campus is having an event that you think we’d be a good fit for, feel free to contact us using one of the various methods mentioned here at This Should Be Illegal.  Have a great weekend and be safe!

DCRA at American University

American U. Wellness Fair

This past Thursday, DCRA’s “This Should Be Illegal” team packed up the van and headed to American University for a little quality time with the students there.  We took part in the university’s annual Wellness Fair and it was really nice.  The folks at AU kind of had to work a little harder than usual to justify our presence, but after we discussed it, they decided that we were a perfect fit.  There are some issues with crappy apartments or other rental housing that could in fact be a matter of life and death.  So, there you have it.

We were very happy to meet several students from AU, giving them information about our services, and we look forward to heading to your college or university next!  If you are having an event soon and you’d like for us to come out, give us a shout on Twitter @dcra or email myself shana.kemp (at) dc (dot) gov or Michael Rupert michael.rupert (at) dc (dot) gov and we’ll be more than happy to stop by!  Sometimes, students feel more comfortable making a formal complaint or getting answers to their questions through one on one interaction, instead of over the phone.

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.

Investigation of Unlicensed Renters in District Not That Simple

Several commenters on our Facebook pages said they submitted lists of alleged illegal rental units in condominium buildings several months ago and still see that the units are unlicensed.  We can appreciate your frustration. However, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs cannot enter a building or an individual unit without the consent of the property owner and the tenant unless there is an extremely dangerous c0ndition.  Several lists provided to us included addresses for secured buildings with both condo owners and alleged illegal renters. We have attempted to contact and investigate dozens of these units, but have had minimal success in gaining entry. For other buildings where everyone is a tenant, it is clear and easy for us to determine if the entire building is licensed. For single family homes with basement apartments, it is easy to determine externally whether the seperate unit is being rented without a license. However, for condo buildings this is nearly impossible without the consent of the owner and/or tenants. We send letters to the units and owners, but for the past few attempts we have had minimal luck. Please continue to send us lists and tips, but we wanted to let you know, especially for condo buildings where you have owners and renters, this task is difficult. Often a letter to the renter warning them that they are being rented to illegally is enough to get them to answer begin to ask some questions. And without any other recourse, this is the most we are allowed to do legally.