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.

DCRA heading to American University at 10 am. See us at main quad. #TSBI

DCRA Heading to American University

DCRA’s outreach team is heading to American University to talk to students living off-campus about safety issues and those living off-campus about what to look for when they decide to leave the dorms. We are now in our 3rd year of this program and we appreciate all of the questions, comments, emails and phone calls. Our goal is to ensure all off-campus student housing is safe. It’s simple. So please, if you suspect your rental has issues, talk to your landlord and if they’re not responsive, call us. We have a ton of information above that can help you. Thanks again.

– Mike, DCRA

And follow us on Twitter if that’s your thing.

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.

Summer is nearly over. What You Need to Know about Getting Security Deposit Back.

Before you move into your new apartment for the next school, you undoubtedly want to get that security deposit back as quickly as possible from your last place. So what are the rules landlords and you need to follow?

Under DC law, landlords have up to 45 days from the date the lease ended to either return the security deposit or provide an itemized list of repairs/deductions that were made from the deposit. Having trouble getting your money back? Show them the law. And we’re pasting it below. Notice that if landlords do not make a “good faith” effort and fail to meet the regulation’s timeline, you are entitled to the entire security deposit back. DCRA doesn’t handle disputes between landlords and tenants on security deposit issues, but if you are having problems you should immediately contact the Office of the Tenant Advocate and let them know. They can help.

309 REPAYMENT OF SECURITY DEPOSITS TO TENANTS

309.1 Within forty-five (45) days after the termination of the tenancy, the owner shall do one of the following:
(a) Tender payment to the tenant, without demand, any security deposit and any similar payment paid by the tenant as a condition of tenancy in addition to the stipulated rent, and any interest due the tenant on that deposit or payment as provided in § 311; or
(b) Notify the tenant in writing, to be delivered to the tenant personally or by certified mail at the tenant’s last known address, of the owner’s intention to withhold and apply the monies toward defraying the cost of expenses properly incurred under the terms and conditions of the security deposit agreement.

309.2 The owner, within thirty (30) days after notification to the tenant pursuant to the requirement of § 309.1(b), shall tender a refund of the balance of the deposit or payment, including interest not used to defray such expenses, and at the same time give the tenant an itemized statement of the repairs and other uses to which the monies were applied and the cost of each repair or other use.

309.3 Failure by the owner to comply with § 309.1 and § 309.2 of this section shall constitute prima facie evidence that the tenant is entitled to full return, including interest as provided in § 311, of any deposit or other payment made by the tenant as security for performance of his or her obligations or as a condition of tenancy, in addition to the stipulated rent.

309.4 Failure by the owner to serve the tenant personally or by certified mail, after good faith effort to do so, shall not constitute a failure by the owner to comply with § 309.1 and

309.5 Any housing provider violating the provisions of this chapter by failing to return a security deposit rightfully owed to a tenant in accordance with the requirements of this chapter shall be liable for the amount of the deposit withheld, or in the event of bad faith, for treble that amount.

309.6 For the purposes of § 309.5, the term “bad faith” means any frivolous or unfounded refusal to return a security deposit, as required by law, that is motivated by a fraudulent, deceptive, misleading, dishonest, or unreasonably self-serving purpose and not by simple negligence, bad judgement, or an honest belief in the course of action taken.

DCRA Launches New Site, New Apps (and it’ll help students find safer housing)

DCRA launched a brand new website yesterday and, so far, it’s getting rave reviews.

http://dcist.com/2010/07/dcra_latest_to_get_new_dcgov_websit.php

http://www.thegeorgetowndish.com/the-latest/see-if-your-neighbors-landlord-has-license-rent

http://www.welovedc.com/2010/07/06/dcra-launches-one-stop-shop-for-property-info/

We’re still adding stuff and cleaning up some links, but it’s a good start.

But the reason for this post is to highlight our new PIVS application, which will allow you to search for whether or not your property is properly licensed, if it has a Certificate of Occupancy, what housing code violations have been issued and what permits and inspections have been done. The database goes back about 6-7 years, but will be a big help for folks.

So go to http://dcra.dc.gov and look for the PIVS icon right at the top under featured services. And let us know what you think. And take a look around the site.

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

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.