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Dear PoPville – Question about Renting Basements

by Prince Of Petworth June 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm 53 Comments


Photo by PoPville flickr user Rich Renomeron

Dear PoPville,

Last year we bought a house in Columbia Heights with a very nice finished basement. We’re looking into whether it is legally rentable, according to the byzantine guidelines of our fair city. An initial search turns up no Certificate of Occupancy for the property (the first requirement for renting a basement, before you get a business license). We’ve been told that, what with the many required inspections, architectural plan submissions, and fees, we’re looking at at least $5000 just to get the C of O – never mind whether we have to do any work to get the basement in line with code!

My question is not whether that is a plausible price (it’s ridiculous, but I can see it reaching that point), but whether DCRA was making any effort to decrease the price or streamline this process for non-commercial basement landlords or those whose property is likely under code. Years ago a earlier PoPville question seemed to incentivize DCRA to get their act together with the Rent My DC Basement site, but its been defunct for over a year and doesn’t seem like it was terribly helpful or went very far to make this process easier or more affordable. Is DCRA still working on reforms for basement rentals?

Are they aware they are incentivizing potential landlords to rent illegally? What’s crazy is that I could rent my whole house – basement included – without having to jump through a quarter of these hoops.

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