Dear PoPville – DCRA Proactive Compliance Inspection?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Brandon Kopp

Dear PoPville,

I returned home last night to a notice on my door announcing a “DCRA Proactive Inspection” has been scheduled for next week.

It goes on to say, “DCRA Inspectors can only enter units for which building owners or managers have secured a tenant-signed consent form (attached)”

Has anyone had any experience with this? I generally think the less number of strangers walking through my house when I am not there the better but wanted to see if I was missing something. I have no complaints or concerns about my apartment.

34 Comment

  • I don’t know what the law allows, but I would not let DCRA inspectors wander through my apartment without me being there under any circumstances whatsoever.

  • Amazing! I was literally posting something to the Forum about the DCRA.
    They are total TOTAL clowns and I would not let these morons into your home much less on your street.
    Situation: For two years now I have been issued all the paperwork for operating an LLC in this when I have to physically go down there to get a copy of the Certificate of Good Standing (which I called about in advance and was told “sure, just bring $40 in cash) three hours later and waiting they cannot find it (I have proof of the cashed check to DC government)…TOTAL MORONS. I get the TeaParty now…incompetent government drones making more money then they are worth. DC government is not a jobs program. And the DC council suck ups need to pay attention

    • Ha! I’ve been through something like that, so I feel your pain. But I think the inspectors are better than the drones.

      Really, dealing with DCRA, you have to hold their hand. It’s embarrassing. One thing I learned was to be extremely polite while conveying that you’re not going to walk away from whoever is dealing with the issue.

  • My landlord had some repairs made on my house that required DCRA to inspect it when they were done and I had to fill one out. If you’re at home when they come by then you don’t have to fill it out, it’s only for when the tenant isn’t present. My landlord was present at the time and I didn’t have a problem with it. If you don’t let them inspect eventually they take away your landlords permit and “technically” you’ll have to move out.

  • DCRA tried to charge me a vacant property tax… TWICE. the property was vacant, and i had paid the taxes, but they couldn’t find proof that i had paid. seriously. so i waited around and insisted that they check their records – meanwhile, the doubting thomas kept reminding me that if they couldn’t find the paperwork i’d have to pay them and then deal with a refund at a later date, should i be able to prove that i had already paid. after a few hours, they found the ‘receipt’ in a paper file that someone ‘accidentally’ found. unbelievable.

  • Why not ask the DCRA Director, Nicholas Majett about this? And, while you are at it, what is the status of the repairs/bringing up to code his families industrial laundry on 11th St., NW after the recent fire. It seems that all the windows are boarded up and nothing really was repaired. The whole building seems to be a potential fire trap/accident waiting to happen.

    • I think that is a fantastic idea and I will do it. Seriously.

      After living in developing world shit holes I understand the value of good government. No more corruption

  • Don’t be freaked out by this – DCRA does a proactive inspection of each rental accommodation in the city once every 5 years. DCRA will not enter your apartment without the landlord (or its agent) being present.

    You should sign the form because your landlord will automatically fail the inspection unless he/she has the signed consent form. Failing the inspection means the landlord will be subjected to substantial fines. It’s important to maintain a good relationship with your landlord. Plus, the inspection is for your benefit – they are looking for violations of the housing regs. If you are still freaked out, you can always be present during the inspection.

    • Agreed. Do it, no big deal. They come through and make sure your apartment is up to code and if not they make your landlord fix it in like 2 months. This is a good thing and the city has ramped up inspections in the last couple years.

      You can call them in advance and notify them of anything you think needs to be fixed to make sure they check it out. We got new hardwired smoke detectors, new exterior paint, and I got ventilation finally for my bathroom

      There were other issues like not enough outlets in each room and low water pressure I chose not to bring to their attention to since my landlord would have raised our rent SIGNIFICANTLY and I’ve grown to live with these issues. Seriously, he undercharges us about $700 for our apartment. It’s a trade off.

      • No, this is a big deal and it is absurd. As a tenant I ought to have enough rights to at least prevent random government officials wandering through my apartment. How micro-managey can a government get that it inspects for code violations in a rental when the TENANT doesn’t even want them to.

        • Lots of tenants don’t want inspectors in their places for the exact reasons that it NEEDS to be inspected. Just think of the trouble that could have been avoided if the meth lab apartment in Dupont had been inspected.

          I was very, very pleased that DCRA inspected the shithole flophouse next door to me, leading to repair orders and fines that eventually forced the slumlord owner to sell. I lived in fear of one of the 14 tenants burning the place down with their hotplate.

          • Wow. Government inspectors ought to go into privately owned homes too. And search you at random intersections. And definitely monitor your internet searching. Think of the crimes they might catch! And who the heck cares about “privacy” or “rights” besides criminals anyway!?!?!

          • Private homes would never happen, because no one would put their own life in jeopardy by living in an unsafe hovel. But people are absolutely willing to do that to *other* people, and that’s a fact of life. That’s why the gov’t regulates this kind of thing — for the same reason that they have regulate meat and medicine. I mean, maybe you’re happy living with black mold, so long as you can keep DCRA out of your place for 20 mins every two years…

          • I have no problem with allowing the tenant to REQUEST an inspection. But if the tenant does not want an inspection, then that ought to be the tenant’s choice with no negative consequences (like the rental then becoming illegal).

    • Wow – every five years? The National Multi housing Council estimates DC has 146,000 rental units. That means 29,200 need to be inspected every year. “Proactive” inspections are bulls**t. DCRA should be focusing on the plenty of clear obvious housing violations and learning how to perform new construction inspections and other basic functions promptly. Why not simply require insurance companies to perform inspections and send in a single form to certify. Insurance companies, with money at stake, have a stronger motivation to encourage compliance.

    • thebear

      I don’t have a problem with the city performing inspections because there are far too many properties that have issues. Unfortunately it isn’t a comprehensive inspection; nor is it true they are performed every 5 years. I have lived in the same apartment for 20 years now and not once has a city inspector come through…and I’m in a 250-unit rental building.

  • They did this at my apt building once and some lady just came and looked around and tested the fire alarm. Took about 2 minutes — and I’m kind of glad they care whether my fire alarm works or not.

    • Don’t YOU care if your fire alarm works? Look at it. Is there a green light? It’s OK! Listen to it. Do you hear a repetitive beep? Change the Batteries! Does it seem to be broken? Call your landlord!

  • Public space and fire alarms, clear exit stairwells, no toxins in my food or air..yes. Some stranger coming into my home to check my fire alarm that I should have the personal responsibility to make sure is in working order?…
    NANNY STATE! – No thanks.

    • Agreed, and I’m sure your landlord feels the same way. That said, it’s better to sign the consent (or show up for the inspection) and avoid having your landlord automatically fail the inspection, incur substantial fines, and ultimately pass on the cost to you in the form of a rent increase.

  • Though they often carry their own set of problems, I find that in this city it is often easier to live in an illegal rental unit than to abide by the rules.

    • Unfortunately you are exactly correct. DCRA doesn’t do Sh*t to address the real health problems and safety risks of illegal tenament houses in the city. The only thing they can do is inspect the properties of people that are already willing to and do comply with the law. Something is not right in this scenario.

      When we called about the 15 people living in the house behind us – rats all over the outside of the back of the house, extensions cords running outside of the house to connect power to parts of the house that didn’t have it, etc. – they told us they could not do anything about it without he owners consent to go into the house and that the owner told them that everyone in the house was a relative (not true). I am all for the 4th amendment but you mean to tell me they have no civil recourse unless people voluntarily comply?

    • This is so true. I own a 3 unit building so I did the responsible thing and make sure that it has a certificate of occupancy, business license and addressed all the safety issues. Meanwhile there are tons of rental properties that are not registered, thus not in DCRA’s radar. The only reason they scheduled my proactive inspection last year is because they found my property address from the business license and certificate of occupancy records. Why not spend their time and energy making sure the units that are not registered are safe?

      • There is no incentive and great dis-incentive to investigate real problems. DCRA knows who/where the landlords are that they can squeeze for maximum fines for minimum effort, and which are the real s**thole properties are that they have no hope of collecting revenue from. Tenant safety is a very peripheral issue for DC govt.

  • Had this happen a few months back. I was fortunately here when they came. Basically they just wanted to see if the water, garbage disposal, and smoke detectors worked. Took them all of 5 min and they were gone. Very professional and friendly. Don’t sweat it.

  • While you’re at it, send them over to my place. I’ve been trying for weeks to get a DCRA housing inspector to come and log the numerous code violations in my place.

  • Thanks to PoP for posting this!

    It’s unfortunate that there’s so much misinformation and misconceptions about the rental housing proactive inspections program. The goal of the program is to identify housing code violations before they become a threat to the life or safety of a tenant. We’ve received very positive feedback from the program and it has allowed landlords to correct minor code violations before they developed into a major – and costly – violation.

    On our website, we have a signficant amount of information about the program, including the monthly inspections schedules:

    The proactive inspections program doesn’t mean tenants can’t call us to request an inspection of their rental unit. They can do so at any time by calling us at 202-442-9557.

    Residents can also call us at that same number to report what they suspect to be illegal or dangerous rental housing units.

    When we respond to inspect a reported property, we cannot enter the property without the consent of the owner or the tenants. If we don’t receive consent, our only remedy is going to D.C. Superior Court and asking a judge to issue an administrative search warrant.

    Tenants are perfectly free to not sign a proactive inspection consent form. And we strongly encourage tenants to contact us if they’re concerned about the safety of their rental unit’s conditions.

    Helder Gil

    • Wait I am confused, you said “When we respond to inspect a reported property, we cannot enter the property without the consent of the owner or the tenants. If we don’t receive consent, our only remedy is going to D.C. Superior Court and asking a judge to issue an administrative search warrant. ” but then you said

      “Tenants are perfectly free to not sign a proactive inspection consent form. And we strongly encourage tenants to contact us if they’re concerned about the safety of their rental unit’s conditions.”

      So after all it isn’t a choice. Sign it or we will get a search warrant to get to your place. Am I wrong?

      • Yes, you are incorrect.

        Administrative search warrants are used as a last resort – and they also require showing sufficient proof to a DC Superior Court judge in order to justify the issuance. We generally only use administrative search warrants when our inspectors believe a rental housing unit situation poses an imminent threat to the health and safety of residents, other building occupants, or surrounding neighbors.

        Our practice is to always seek tenant cooperation and permission. In the rare cases where we cannot get permission to enter the property AND the property’s conditions pose an imminent danger, then we would seek an administrative search warrant.

        Hope that helps!

        Helder Gil

    • Can you please give us a break-down of cost/benefit/results man-hours etc. of this program? Versus man-hours spent investigating actual complaints? Please give link to where these hard numbers may be found.

    • OP here. The main reason I dint want the inspection is that it was scheduled for a time I will be out of town for an extended period of time. On top of that I have nothing but good experiences with my landlord. If there is a problem, the mgmt company fixes it quickly. I just dont want strangers walking through the house when I am gone for 10+ days. I do appreciate the fact that DCRA is out there looking for problems and if a situation ever presents itself I will be in touch!

  • The program is essentially a fishing expedition in hopes of creating a new revenue stream for the department and the city. It bothers tenants who haven’t complained, it worries owners because it’s a search without cause and it overburdens DCRA’s already overworked inspectors taking them away from actual tenant complaints. It’s in no one’s best interest, except the bureaucracy’s, despite the heart of gold spin. Long live our protectors. For they know better than us all.

  • My BF’s 4 unit building just had that. DCRA found a few minor violations and cited the landlord for them and he fixed before they came back for a re-inspection. One was trash in the alley that was overflowing. I actually like that they are doing this — his building is pretty run down, but livable, but I wasn’t quite confident that it was up to fire code, etc. Now we know it is!

  • DCRA housing inspectors are whimsical about some regulations and standards and that is a fact. I put in a whole new set of windows in the book of a rental property working to save the tenant and myself long term problems and heating costs. The window dimensions were approx. (very approximately 44×52. After installation of two of them (side by side) the inspector came back and said “too small” and I had to put in this oversized casement crank window that was completely inefficient and actually smaller than the two windows when compared. It was more difficult to open in the event of a fire and was simply stupid. DCRA is corrupt and indicative of a woefully inefficient (deliberately or maybe not deliberately) workforce. Work not being the operative word.

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