08/21/14 2:30pm

“Dear PoPville,

In March we had to file a lawsuit against the house flippers who sold us our house. Turns out they had illegally renovated our house. The flipper did not even have a D.C. business license. He runs approximately 15 limited liability corporations (LLCs) out of his $2 million house in Potomac, Maryland. Like some (but not all) other house flippers, he runs the house flipping LLCs like shell companies, undercapitalizing them, mixing his personal assets with the LLC assets, and failing to hold any board meetings or to otherwise respect the formal rules that govern LLCs. Those shell companies essentially protect him from liability and make it hard to find out who is behind the shoddy construction. We fully expect that the LLC he used to flip our house has no insurance and no money in it. That means that if we want to recover our losses, our attorney will have to “pierce the corporate veil” of the flipper’s LLC (a potentially expensive proposition) and show that he was using the LLC as an alter ego, that he didn’t respect the rules governing LLCs, and that he was using the LLC to perpetrate fraud.

In addition, the real estate firm for the seller/flipper was not registered and was not in good standing (and thus was also operating illegally in D.C.), and the contractor also had no license and used unlicensed subs.

Examinations of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) building permit records, deeds in the D.C. Recorder of Deeds, pre-flip real estate listings and then post-flip listings strongly suggest that the same flippers who did our house have also illegally renovated dozens of other homes in D.C. They’ve covered up their tracks well, in part by using permits for minor repair work while they greatly exceeded the permits and gutted the place amid a total rehab. Their carefully hidden illegal work includes the tearing down of load-bearing walls or columns to create a superficially nice but structurally defective and non-code compliant open floor plan, floors that sag two inches or more, an asbestos-contaminated HVAC system, a now-collapsing porch built by draping brand new casing over thoroughly rotten wood, a construction-debris-filled sewer line that will likely spew sewage into our basement yet again soon unless we excavate the pipe to replace the whole thing, zero insulation in the walls and ceilings, and several other problems. We plan to keep the house, but we know that if we ever want to be able to sell the house in the future, we will have to disclose all these problems, will have to undertake a significant redo of the house, and be able to show prospective buyers documentation regarding how we fixed each defect. (more…)

08/19/14 2:30pm

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Photo by PoPville flickr user nevermindtheend

“Dear PoPville,

I am considering renting out my Park View area rowhome. While managing the rental myself is certainly an option I am considering, I would be interested to hear from others about the pros and cons of using a rental management company. I am particularly interested in costs of using a company and particular recommendations of specific companies.”

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“Dear PoPville,

Last year, you wrote about Justice Park Apartments, affordable housing units in Columbia Heights that were slated to open in May 2014. I’m writing to let you know that they have been dragging their feet and displacing dozens of young professionals and families in the process. I was approved for a one bedroom apartment and excited that I finally had a chance to live in a great neighborhood without the hefty price tag. However, two weeks before my scheduled move in date (August 1st), I called and found out that the move in date would be pushed back until September. As a young professional living in Maryland, this became a huge inconvenience, as my landlord in MD was unwilling to switch me over to a month-to-month lease. I find myself displaced and living with a relative for what I thought would be a month. Because my relative does not live close to a Metro, I’ve had to rent a car for one month in order to get to work and storage for my items, because the house is not big enough to hold my things. All-in-all, I will be paying close to $1000 for these items alone (movers, storage space, car rental).

I called the front office this week and just found out that they are pushing the move-in date back once again, this time until September 11th!

Because these units are MEANT for people that are making below the AMI, I find it disgusting that the builders are seemingly taking their time and pushing back the move in date. At this point, I may not even be able to wait that long to move in and might have to find somewhere else to live outside of the District, as I cannot comfortably afford a market rate one bedroom in Columbia Heights.

I’m hoping that by writing in to you will give Equity Management the push they need in order to deliver these units by the September 1st deadline- no exceptions. A one or two month delay is understandable, but at this point, these units have been pushed back nearly five months.

I’d also like to note that the ladies in the front office have been nothing but pleasant and as helpful as they can be in this situation, so this is not their fault nor does this speak to their professionalism. However, the issue NEEDS to be rectified ASAP.

-Miserable in Maryland”

08/12/14 2:30pm

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Photo by PoPville flickr user Paul Sirajuddin

“Dear PoPville,

Over the weekend, I encountered two situations where I witnessed really drunk women who were in the presence of un-compassionate men. I was wondering what should I do as an observer? Call the cops? Scenario one: Woman getting out of a cab with a man who barely helped her get out or even stand up or walk. He seemed really disinterested in helping her as she stumbled to their destination (she was so drunk that she couldn’t even walk on the sidewalk and kept on falling into the street). He walked behind her and did not seem like a friend or bf AT ALL. Scenario 2: Drunk and possibly high woman at the bus stop, surrounded by men. She was so out of it that she could barely hold up her cigarette. I believe that she wasn’t in the right state of mind to be where she was at 10 pm at night.

I’m not saying that these men are going to hurt these women, but if I was in a state of mind like that, I’d be really scared of what could or might happen. So all in all, what can bystanders do? Would cops come to the rescue?”

07/25/14 2:30pm

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Photo by PoPville flickr user clif_burns

“Dear PoPville,

We bought a home two years ago in Bloomingdale with very little down payment and, given the rise in prices in the area, we are thinking on refinancing to get better terms in the loan. We are quite confident that we have more than 20% equity in the house considering numerous recent comparables.

Our surprise is that some lenders are offering more stringent terms because the house has a separate legal basement unit. When we bought the house two years ago it already had a Certificate of Occupancy and it was already classified with a use code 24 (Residential-Conversions less than 5 units). However, no lender raised the question of the second unit, and we closed without any problems or amended terms.

We would be interested in knowing how people are financing the houses that have legal rental units with C of O nowadays. If the terms are indeed more stringent for houses with C of O, that would be yet another reason not to go through the painful process of “legalizing” an english basement.”

mpd

“Dear PoPville,

I do not send this email (and attached photo) as a malicious attempt against the Metropolitan Police Department – this is why I do not include a face or any identification in the photo. I merely want to point out room for improvement on part of the MPD. Since moving to Columbia Heights last fall I have been shocked by the lack of in-person police presence. The only police presence I regularly see occurs on the alley I live in. At least 3-4 nights per week there is a squad car regularly parked overlooking Girard, about once or twice a month they also bring out the floodlights. I am not questioning the efficacy of the squad car and lighting – they are obviously effective in deterring crime in the immediate vicinity. What I would like to question is the lack of in-person police presence in this area and Columbia Heights as a whole.

On my way home from evening class last night (7/22) around 9PM I could see the police headlights as I approached the alley on my final stretch home. I chuckled to myself and thought: “I wonder if the officer will be attentive or on their cell phone?” Sadly, the latter is typically the case. I decided to have my smartphone ready to see if I could document this. Sure enough I was able to walk DIRECTLY in front of and then to the side of the vehicle (within 3 feet of the driver’s window) without the officer ever looking up from his cell phone. This occurred over a 30-40 second period. As you can see, the officer’s thumb is clearly on the phone while he is texting. I was completely flabbergasted by the fact that this guy didn’t notice me until the flash of my camera went off. One then begins to wonder what exactly these police officers patrol.

I wonder how much more crime would be deterred if these officers were not allowed to use personal cell phones on the job, or if they went out in teams of two – one officer remains with the stationary vehicle while another patrols a 4-5 block radius on foot.

Again, my attempt is not to be malicious but to simply point out some poor behavior on part of the MPD, there is clearly room to improve. “To serve and protect”, is that how the saying goes?”

07/23/14 2:30pm

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Sign at Roosevelt High School in Petworth

“Dear PoPville,

Are there any outdoor tracks that are open to the public in DC? I’ve seen a post from a couple of years ago about Cardozo High School, but am wondering about other tracks as well.”

From the sign above it looks like most public high schools have early morning and afternoon hours open to the public. In 2010 the Examiner put out a pretty good list too. For those who use tracks around town – where do you go?

07/18/14 2:30pm

“Dear PoPville,

I started this Google doc after doing my own (very frustrating) child-care search, and after sending it out on a couple parents’ list-serves, it’s kind of caught fire. People have been adding a lot of good information and their own impressions, and it’s become a really useful resource for people looking for child care. There are precious few places where this kind of information is compiled.”

07/11/14 2:30pm

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Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

“Dear PoPville,

I recently moved into my first home, a condo in the Shaw/Logan neighborhood. I’ve been doing some research on getting a home warranty plan for the appliances and HVAC system in my unit, but am not sure which company to go with and am concerned I may get overcharged. Do your readers have any suggestions for home warranty plans for a condo?”