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“Is it better to admit with explanation or fight it?”

by Prince Of Petworth March 6, 2017 at 2:45 pm 25 Comments

trash violation
Photo by PoPville flickr user Erin

“Dear PoPville,

I recently purchased a fixer upper home in Kingman park and received a trash violation in the mail from Feb 8th. The violation is pretty concerning to me, first of all because my crew working on the house takes the trash every evening to the dump. We do this to avoid trash piling up in the backyard. The photos were taken around 12:30, when the crew was most likely at lunch and so by evening the trash that I am being cited for was gone.

Second it is clear from the photos that the inspector walked into my gated backyard. When I first moved into the home I had a short gate that was leaning over but stood up and was closed every evening. I don’t know if the crew left it open when they went to lunch, but it was definitely closed before I went to bed. I am a single female and always check to make sure my gates are closed and locked as well as my doors. Are inspectors allowed to enter your property with no one present for a trash violation?

What has been readers success in fighting these types of violations? I imagine a hearing will be a he said/she said issue. Is it better to admit with explanation or fight it?”

  • ah

    Without knowing how much the fine is, I’d be inclined to fight it (unless it’s $10 and your time is not worth it).

    I’d go in with an explanation, and you’ll probably get it dismissed (especially if you have pictures of current conditions).

    I understand inspectors are allowed to enter your property (outside) to conduct inspections.

    • James W.

      Was the trash properly containerized? Regardless of how frequently it’s removed from the site, you can’t leave piles of trash in your yard for any amount of time. It’s very unclear from OP why the cited violation was somehow unfair or in error.

      • James W.

        Also, how is this a “he said/she said” issue if there are a) photos of the violation and b) a ticket from an inspector citing a specific violation of DC code?

  • Blerg

    I have found that if you “admit with explanation,” instead of contesting a parking ticket and providing the DMV with one of the 7 listed “valid defenses” from their website, your ticket will be upheld. I bet it’s the same with the DPW trash tickets. I would advise you not to “admit with explanation,” but to contest it.

  • Anon3

    Did you take photos of the back yard with all trash gone the same day later in the afternoon? I think you should contest it, with that as evidence. I have not had this particular issue, but I have contested numerous ridiculous parking violation tickets in the past, and they always got dismissed. The burden is usually on the govt, in those cases, to prove you are at fault. If you admit, i think you will end up paying the fine regardless of the explanation. Make the explanation your defense, rather than your admission. Not sure about inspector being allowed to come inside gate of property, but I don’t like that either as a homeowner.

  • Jen

    I had a similar situation – citation made while my contractor & crew were at lunch. Fought it and went to the hearing – the inspector who made the citation didn’t even show up and it was dismissed. If you can take the time off work, I think it’s worth it.

  • Jac

    We had this happen during construction on our house.. same thing, we had the workers take the trash out every evening, but the inspector took photos while they were at HD. We admitted and while they did reduce it, they did not take it completely away since we had admitted to it.

    Make friends with the people in your alley, because most likely someone called into complain about it..

    • textdoc

      +1 to “Make friends with the people in your alley, because most likely someone called into complain about it.” DCRA and DPW rarely come looking for these kinds of violations unless neighbors have contacted them with complaints.

      • textdoc

        In the above, I meant DCRA as far as debris/trash violations are concerned — not as far as stop work orders, building permits, and that kind of thing.

      • OP Here

        That’s good to know. I have a feeling it wasn’t just my house that was the problem. There is definitely a dumping issue in the alley with couches and broken furniture scattered. Nonetheless I will make sure to make nice with my alley neighbors!

  • Bdylan89

    As far as parking tickets go I always fight them and win most of the time as you can do it onlilne and it does not take that much time. If it’s something you can do online I’d definitely fight it….you have nothing to lose!

    • FridayGirl

      This literally has nothing to do with parking tickets……….

  • TinkerTaylor

    We had this happen a number of years ago when we were having renovations done. Subcontractor was hauling off the trash and dumped a bunch of boxes in an alley a few blocks away. We got the $1k fine via certified mail and admitted with explanation. After something like a four month delay, the we were cleared and were told we should have denied since we didn’t dump the boxes.

    Good luck!

  • Tim

    I successfully appealed a DPW ticket a couple years ago. The inspector will be in the courtroom with you and each of you will be given an opportunity to submit your evidence to the judge. In my case, the inspector also interacted with each defendant before the judge arrived specifically to ask why they were appealing and see if they could come to an agreement before the judge. In several cases, the inspector actually recommended to the judge that the ticket be thrown out. In my case, the inspector proceeded with her complaint, but then changed her mind and she and the judge threw out the ticket after I made my case. It all seemed a bit silly, but it was worth my time to fight the ticket. That said, bring pictures, read the law, and prepare an argument before you go in there. Good luck.

    • OP Here

      Thank you so much for the help! I think I will be fighting it given that I am paying dumping fees and the items literally were not there longer than eight hours. Thanks again!

  • VV

    What is the specific citation on the violation notice? My asshole neighbors enjoy dumping an absurd amount of random unbagged trash in and around my cans so I’ve gotten a couple of fines.

    One of the times the DPW employee cited a regulation that had been repealed, so the fine didn’t stick. If the notice from DPW cites 24 DCMR 1000.1 under the Litter Control Administration Act, you should contest it – that regulation was repealed in 2015 and authority for enforcement was assigned to the DC Department of Transportation, not DPW. The judge will dismiss your fine.

    • RSt

      This is important to pay attention to. I had a similar sounding situation to the OP, admitted it with an explanation and then was dismissed because DPW did not have the authority.

      • OP here

        How do you check who has the authority to enforce the ruling? I was cited under 21DCMR/700.3 which appears to be written by the Department of Health. The violation was written by Public Works.

        • James W.

          705.3 Collectors shall not permit spillage from solid waste containers or collection vehicles or otherwise contribute debris at the point or area of collection.

          As suspected, you probably left your trash in piles in your yard. It needs to be completely inside a container.

        • James W.

          cut and paste error, sorry… but same conclusion…seems trash was not in container? 700.3 All solid wastes shall be stored and containerized for collection in a manner that will not provide food, harborage, or breeding places for insects or rodents, or create a nuisance or fire hazard.

          • OP Here

            Yes I understand that the trash wasn’t stored in a container. That was because the trash was being taken out of the house, through the backyard and into a truck. It was removed that morning from the house and that evening out of the backyard. It did not sit for longer than 8 hours. My interest is that the regulation is set by the Department of Health, yet enforced by Department of Public Works. Is that normal?

  • Truxtoner

    Am I the only one confused about why you’re getting a ticket for something in your own back yard? Is it actually a violation to have trash in your own back yard? Unless I’m reading it incorrectly (possible) it did not sound like the trash in question was actually in the alley?

    • Anonymous

      “Is it actually a violation to have trash in your own back yard?”
      .
      It can be, of course. But we’re not talking about a few plastic bags or pieces of paper that blew in on a windy day, this is more about large piles of refuse, constructions materials, etc. that might provide a comfy home to wild animals or otherwise create unsanitary or unsafe conditions. (I’m speaking in general here, no idea what OP’s exact situation was.)

      • textdoc

        +1. Trash/debris/bulk items in your own yard are violations if they stay there indefinitely and could be (among other things) providing “harborage” for rats.

  • Accountering

    I got one of these in the past, see if you can speak to the inspector. Mine was very nice, I apologized, he asked me to plead not guilty with explanation, told me to give his name, apologize, explain that I am working really hard as an owner occupant, it won’t happen again etc. They waived the ticket. This was back in 2011 though, so YMMV.

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