Dear PoP

“Hey PoP – a question from a long-time reader and occasional commenter that I was hoping your other readers might be able to help answer. There’s a house on my block that has been seemingly abandoned for about a year or so. Before that, the owner(s) did a fairly significant amount of work both inside and out. They seemed to finish but there has been no activity whatsoever at the house since then. The yard is completely overgrown, full of trash and rats, weeds are growing onto the sidewalk, a now-soaked and rotting phonebook has been sitting on the porch for months, and pigeons were nesting above the front door (now the nest is in pieces on the porch directly in front of the door, making it obvious no one has been in or out in a long, long time). I’ve called DCRA twice about listing it as a vacant property and getting the eyesore of a yard cleaned up. It’s been about 3 months since the first time I called and nothing has happened. Aren’t they supposed to send someone out to cut the grass, at least, and then bill/fine the owner?

Frankly, I don’t have a whole lot of faith in my ANC rep as he hasn’t been too helpful or useful in the past, but I could contact him. Do you or your readers have any other suggestions?”

We addressed a very similar question back in June. Check all the advice here.

13 Comment

  • If you can, take a digital photo and email it to Graham’s office. The photo helps justify the staff time for someone to go and make an inspection. It’s also to keep a record of when you called.

  • Unabashedly pursue your CM until he/ she does something to resolve the issue.

  • Good luck.

    I have a house across the street from me where there are tons Of DCRA issues. DCRA is not very responsive.

    I suggest sending as many emails as you can and be sure to CC Bowser and anyone else you can get

  • why not call the neighbor/owner?

  • You must call Jim Graham’s office, and stay on them, and DCRA. Find out when they plan to inspect the property, when they plan to send notices out to the owner, etc. If they say that they will come inspect the property in 3 days….follow up on the 4th.

  • I had a good result from calling Graham and insisting that the house next to me was a nuisance. It took a couple weeks and a little follow-up, but they did finally send an inspector, issue orders for repairs and whatnot, and things have improved vastly.

  • If Graham doesn’t work go straight to Fenty.

    And while you’re at it, contact the Dept. of Public Works and claim illegal dumping. They will come over take pictures, fine the owner $150, and when the owner fails to show up in court, the fine is increased to $1000. You can also track your work order online:

  • Oh, and for the work order, you don’t actually have to leave your contact info, just hit the “Make a Service Request” button.

  • Thanks, guys. I guess I will have to take this to Graham’s office. It would be nice, though, if DCRA could just do what they’re supposed to without having to hound them – or get someone else to hound them…

    Is DCRA supposed to stick to a schedule? Is there anyone specific who’s been helpful in the past? The second time I called, I asked how long it usually took to have an inspection and was told about 2 weeks. When I informed him that I’d called at least 4 weeks ago and nothing had been done (i.e. cutting the grass), I was told that if they can’t contact the owner, then the complaint goes to a different office but he couldn’t/wouldn’t give me any more info. Maybe I just got someone who was spectacularly unhelpful, but the exchange gave me no confidence that anything would happen. Hence the email to PoP.

    “why not call the neighbor/owner?” First, how in the world am I supposed to do that? Obviously there isn’t anyone living in the place, so a landline number for that address isn’t going to get answered, if there’s on even still connected. Second, even if I could somehow find a valid contact number, I’m not sure I want that level of personal interaction. I am well aware I shouldn’t even have to think about this, but I would not want to risk retaliation of any sort (we talked to the apparent owner once and he was a bit… shady). Maybe if this were a case of an elderly neighbor who isn’t up to cutting their grass I’d call or knock, but this is more than that.

  • dreas,

    Don’t forget that the ANC election is coming with the Presidential election, so you can work to get yourself a more responsive commissioner. If you live in Ward 4, also e-mail Muriel Bowser. She has been responsive on a number of our neighborhood issues. If you live in 4C, you may also want to contact our ANC chair, Joe Martin. You can find contact information on the ANC website.

    I heard the district may begin doubling the property tax for abandonded houses. That should also help to generate some action.

    The property tax records are public information, available on the DC website (it takes some googling). It will give you the owner’s name.

  • Speaking of abandoned houses, what’s the deal with that house on the corner of Shepherd and New Hampshire? The grass and rose bushes are out of control and the garbage is piling up. The previous owner/tenant would be stunned, as she cared for the place lovingly. Some rabble moved in several months ago and the place went to hell, but they seem to be gone now as well. i guess it’s better to have an empty house than than people living there that just don’t give a rat’s ass.

  • DCRA is no more competent than any other DC agency, ie they suck. Your only choice is to do what always needs to be done in these situations, become part ANC, part agency manager, and part block-activist to get basic needs met. Store the anger you generate and use it to inspire you to move to a place that wants middle class residents. DC is after the very wealthy and the very poor. The former generates big taxes and throws great parties, the latter generates Section 8 funds and supplies drugs and hookers.

  • Also try the BCIB–Board for condemnationof insanitary buildings. They can require fix-ups, whereas DCRA really only deems properties vacant and eventually maybe imposes a higher tax.

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