Excruciating Details of a Severe Neighbor Situation Going on for Ten Years


I’ve been included on a series of emails about a home in the 300 block of Gallatin Street, NW. It is painful but eye opening to read – all involved genuinely seem to want to help – but can’t. Following is just a sampling from this morning:

From a resident:

“Morning Everyone,

Just doing my monthly check to see if we are anywhere on 3xx [Gallatin St, NW]? there are still a dozen or so people in the home, it is still falling apart. there are still people living in the garage and urinating and defecating in the alley and backyards.”

Response from MPD:

“Good morning,

To be completely honest, the location has been off my radar due to the lack of 911 calls which is a good thing.

Most of my attention lately has been redirected to Delafield and Emerson due to the multiple sounds of gunshots calls.

I realize that an excuse only benefits the person making it, however, i hope you will appreciate my frankness and allow me an opportunity to re-establish your confidence in me.

Sgt Mason – research this address and let me know what we have done in terms of search warrants. I’m not at my desk but I do believe we have executed a search warrant at this location.
Sgt Schaut – Ensure that evening crime patrol units are active in the 300 b/o Gallatin with an emphasis on 3xx.
Sgt Robinson – same on day – work
Sgt Herringa – same on Midnights.

Lieutenant Anthony Washington
Manger PSA 407
Fourth District”

Resident response:

“of course. thank you for getting back to me
to be honest. after 10 years of dealing with 3xx, i have just stopped bothering to call.”

From the Office of the Attorney General:

“To All,

This property is still on my radar, but I am still waiting for a personal representative of the estate to be assigned. Until an owner/personal representative is assigned I have no one to sue. I have recently touched base with the firm who is handling the estate (I touch base with them every 4 to 6 weeks) and am waiting for them to confirm that they have located the personal representative. As soon as they give me a name I can file a case.


Michael Aniton
Assistant Attorney General”

From MPD:

“I understand your frustration. We are going to have to sit down together and come up with a strategy that will get your neighbors involved so that you won’t be alone in your efforts to increase the quality of life on your block.

I have Derek Staten working on our next PSA meeting for December 17th. Maybe we can have your neighbors come a half hour early so we can focus solely on a plan to address 3xx Gallatin. The PSA meeting at Shepherd St begins at 7pm. Maybe I can meet with Gallatin St at 6:30 pm.

How does that sound?”

Resident response:

“because the most egregious issues only affect my property and the neighbors on the other side of 3xx, who do not speak to anyone on the block, i doubt anything would come from getting the neighbors involved.

there have been several meetings about this, from when fenty was mayor up until this summer. i understand the limitations everyone in the city must work within, so all of us talking again about how horrible the property is and all the violations in it will not accomplish anything.

so basically, until there is someone to sue, which ideally there should be a decade into this, there is nothing to do but for me to remain indoors and continue spending several thousand dollar a month to deal with problems”

Another resident response:

“We have tried that several times – there have been months long periods without water when they were throwing bags of feces outside and months when the house was powered by a gas generator on the front porch roof. Nothing ever came of it”

36 Comment

  • Sounds awful. Just FYI- you have inconsistently X’d out the address. I see it in two MPD responses above.

  • There are several places where the address is still not blocked out.

  • PoP – you have included the full address in one of the responses from MPD. Probably want to edit if you’re redacting.

  • justinbc

    Hard to believe it’s lasted this long without burning to the ground.

  • How does the personal representative of the estate thing work. I assume it’s that they are trying to find the next of kin?

    What if the next of kin is a distant relation and has no idea any of it is happening? Can you imagine being contacted via a lawsuit about an issue related to the house of your dad’s third cousin once removed?

    Sounds like a mess all around.

    • Yeah, and what happens if there is no next of kin? Does that mean the squatters can just stay there without any consequences whatsoever? I do know that evicting squatters is actually harder than evicting someone with a lease, but there has to be something that can be done?

      • In most cases, the owner of the house has to deal with squatters. You cannot simply complain about it as a neighbor and have anything done. If the homeowner refuses to deal with it, the only other options are to show some danger or crime to have them removed. Unfortunately squatting isn’t really illegal if the homeowner does not care to address it. Now, if other things are happening that are illegal (too many occupants, drugs, etc.), that may be a different issue that could lead to resolution. I’d say work to have the house condemned.

      • Well, hard to evict squatters unless there is obvious safety or other violations. Hopefully there is enough evidence of what’s going on that it resolves quickly.

    • Surely you can sue an estate if it doesnt have an identified owner, no? There must always be an executor or wouldn’t it revert to the city?

    • Your dad’s third cousin once removed is your third cousin twice removed. No need to complicate the language.

    • The personal representative is whomever has been appointed by the court to handle business on behalf of the deceased. My guess is that the owner of the house has passed and didn’t leave a will or instructions detailing how their estate was to be managed. So the property will be in limbo until someone steps forward to become the personal representative..

    • So I live on a nearby parallel street that had a house with similar squatter problems. Let’s just say that calling vice squad directly will solve your problem. They’ll raid the property, kick everyone out, arrest those who need to be detained, and seize any contraband. The quality of life on my block since vice squad put the hurt on those shitbirds has noticeably increased. Eff those people. So annoying.

  • binpetworth

    Ugh. What a horrible situation. Does everything have to be reported through the police? Just wondering if there’s any mechanism in which the neighbors can report some of this stuff through the health department/hazardous waste, etc. Is that then looped back to MPD? Honestly don’t know but hope for these folks’ sake that there’s some way to resolve this quickly. Sounds like a nightmare.

  • He’s saying 300 block. The address is NOT 300 Gallatin.

  • who is paying taxes on this property? shouldn’t this be part of the tax lien sale the city does every year?

    • I had the same question. Is this property being taxed at the vacant rate of 5 percent? If not, why not? I can’t imagine that squatters qualify as legitimate occupants. If the property is in as bad shape as you state, then it really should be taxed at the even higher tax rate of 10 percent for vacant and blighted properties. Is it? If not, why not? Are the taxes paid on the property? If not, how much is owed? If taxes are owed, has DCRA or OTR attempted to recover the taxes? There are a lot of properties like this one that are stuck because the city has not done a junk sale in years. We need a proper tax foreclosure process in this city that adequately protects people AND that is able to deal with problematic properties such as this one.

      • I agree with all that you said. I’ll add that when the delinquent taxes on a vacant/blighted property accrue into 5 or 6 digit range, no investor will purchase it in the yearly tax sale, which means the city either needs to put the property on the special tax sale where the delinquent taxes are zeroed out, or the city sues the owner in an effort to foreclose on the property. One of the unintended consequences of the vacant & blighted tax rate (10%) is that delinquent taxes accrue much quicker, and as a result many of these properties are stuck until a special tax sale.

        Also, regarding both the regular and special tax sales, buyer beware (for any property): You don’t get title to the property when you have the winning bid. You only get to be first in line to foreclose on the property, which means you get the privilege of trying to track down the third cousin once removed of the sister of deceased homeowner, which is undoubtedly a multi-year and expensive process.

        • My neighbors just got two properties declared vacant. Taxes popped up. Both went on the market within a few weeks. One is sold, one is pending.

  • Well, at the very least, this email from the MPD lieutenant is refreshing. I live in another part of Petworth by the metro and our lieutenant won’t respond to emails, says he can’t tell us what he is doing to improve things and seems to not comprehend what is happening at the street level.

    • Agreed – I appreciate the candor and responsiveness.

      OP – Wow that sucks. What’s the taxes situation? Easy to lookup if you have the house number. Might be more productive to press the city to expedite proceedings for unpaid taxes.

  • Oh this brings back bad memories. Just hope they don’t start spreading said human feces on your house as pay back. Then it gets really fun.

  • Ashy Oldlady

    It looks like such a pleasant block on Google Street View.

  • if it’s really this bad, does seem a shame that it can’t be declared an imminent hazard to public health and boarded up. I think calling 911 at every sighting of someone in that house is going to be helpful.


    This truly sounds like a toxic waste sort of situation. The city can condemn property if it’s super unhealthy (hoarders ring a bell?) but they won’t. why? there is no logical reasoning.

    so disgusting

  • Please keep ideas coming. And whoever posted this, you are not alone. We have a similar situation and it’s extremely bad. I have identified no solution and am afraid it could go on for 10 years. I have contacted the ANC and our CM, but no one seems to know how to help.

    • It seems that many of these type of situations are very complicated and fall in a several jurisdictions and not in any one that can easily facilitate. Hoarder situations – particularly the elderly – are another.

  • Same thing happened for many years on the 900 block of 8th st NE

  • What does DCRA say?

    • I can’t answer for this situation, but DCRA found no violations at my neighbors. Even though the house and yard are trashed and there is no water service for people living there. Soooo….

  • I’m very sorry about this situation – you have my sympathy. We had what sounds like a very similar situation where the owner of a house passed away and two of her sons were squatting in the house with no running water or utilities and selling drugs for years. DC has thousands of nuisance properties and you and your neighbors unfortunately have to be continuously advocating for something to happen or nothing will – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Eventually in the case of the house near us, the heirs were sued and a court settlement was reached where brothers were evicted. Google for “nuisance property Taylor St NW” and you can find the details on the website of the DC Attorney General. The house was eventually sold, renovated, and sold again.

    Your best bet I think is to work with your neighbors, MPD, your council member, and others in the city to get action taken. Good luck – I hope you are successful. In our case, as soon as the problem house on our block was vacated and then sold, the whole area felt safer – it is such a pedestrian-oriented area now which was very much not the case when I moved to Petworth 10 years ago.

  • We had a house like that on our block, it wasn’t resolved until the grandma who owned it died and the family with their shit together swooped in to sell it out from under the junkies.

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