Mayor Announces Proactive Inspections Progress – Student Housing Included

Mayor Adrian Fenty, along with DCRA Director Linda Argo and Attorney General Peter Nickles, today announced DCRA’s Proactive Inspections program has uncovered more than 5,000 housing code violations in more than 300 buildings across the District. Through the Proactive Inspections program, every multi-family rental property in the District will be inspected over the next four years.

And when we say all rental housing it includes any student rental housing. So if you see notices on your building, don’t be surprised.

Mayor Fenty made the announcement standing outside a property where proactive inspections abated deadly carbon monoxide levels and a potentially explosive gas leak, said the new effort will eliminate loopholes that for decades allowed slumlords to avoid enforcement of the city’s housing codes.

“The program will ensure that all 4,800 multi-family rental properties in the District will be inspected no matter what the situation is inside the buildings,” Fenty said. “The DCRA inspections unit is taking initiative to enforce housing codes, and will dramatically improve the quality of rental housing throughout the District.”

During the first six months of the program, introduced last May, DCRA inspected 741 units in 318 properties across all 8 wards and cited property owners with 5,103 housing code violations. Landlords have varying amounts of time to fix the violations depending on their severity. Failure to fix the problems or pass final inspection will result in notices of violation, fines, and possibly criminal prosecution.

DCRA is on track to inspect an average of 100 buildings per month through 2013. The agency is working closing with tenant advocates and combing its own databases to ensure buildings with a history of violations are prioritized. The program includes automatic referrals for inspections to the DC Department of Health (DOH), as well as to the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), for mold, lead, air quality, rodents and other health and environmental concerns.

The program is the latest in a series of actions taken to preserve safe affordable housing in the District. In April 2008, the city filed a sweeping lawsuit that forced millions of dollars in repairs in some of the most dangerous residential buildings that had been identified by DCRA over the past five years.

Additionally, the at least one property owner was put in jail for failing to abate housing code violations, another was ordered to pay a fine for failing to abate the violations in a timely fashion and two others faced a criminal case.  Three buildings were closed due to property owners failing to maintain them up to code. 

Nickles said the Office of the Attorney is working closely with DCRA to monitor properties in the proactive program and will not hesitate to hold landlords accountable through court action if they fail to respond.

 “We will not hesitate to prosecute recalcitrant landlords to ensure they maintain a safe environment for tenants,” said Nickles.

Nickles said the District will be looking to file a second slumlord lawsuit against those who do not take their responsibilities as landlords seriously.

“Proactive Inspections fills a big hole in the District’s enforcement efforts and will go a long way, once we’ve touched all rental properties, to ensure no tenants have to live in sub-standard conditions,” Argo said. “It’s our intention not just to respond to tenants that ask for our help to ensure that buildings are up to code, but also to get into buildings where tenants might be living quietly in unsafe or deteriorating conditions.”

As part of a targeted outreach effort, DCRA has also distributed more than 5,500 fliers to DCPS schools, apartment buildings, libraries, chartered schools, non-profit organizations, and day care centers in recent month to educate tenants on their rights.

Argo said the proactive inspections program will not replace the current complaint-based system or emergency building-wide inspection program and encourages people to continue to request inspections by calling 311, online at http://dcra.dc.gov, or by emailing dcra.housingcomplaints@dc.gov.

Beginning in October 2009, DCRA began assessing a bi-annual $35 per unit fee up to a $2,000 maximum for proactive inspections. This fee will be included in Basic Business License (BBL) fees and owners will also be assessed $90 per unit for each violation-related re-inspection.

More information on the Proactive Program and a complete schedule of previous and upcoming inspections is available at http://dcra.dc.gov under “Proactive Inspections.”

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