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“The construction noise is slowly driving me insane.”

by Prince Of Petworth March 27, 2017 at 2:30 pm 36 Comments

line hotel popville
1780 Columbia Road, NW

“Dear PoPville,

I live in an apartment building across the street from The Line Hotel construction site in Adams Morgan. While the hotel was projected to be finished last November, it’s still very much under construction. The construction noise is slowly driving me insane. It’s an active site 6 days a week, and large generators (I’m assuming that’s what they are, they appear to run heating into the finished parts of the site) run 24/7. It sounds like a semi truck is constantly idling on the block. This noise combined with the dust from the construction has been a nuisance for months on end—we can’t even have windows open. I have the luxury of escaping to my boyfriend’s house when I need some quiet, but there are families with small children in the building who surely don’t have that same advantage. I wanted to know if there’s any course of action residents impacted by this can take. Surely there must be some noise compliance laws, or at the very least, rent reduction agreements. Has anyone had success dealing with this sort of situation before?

  • Anon for this

    Why would you be entitled to rent reduction? Your landlord has no control over the construction of a hotel across the street. DC tenants are something else.

    • Anon NS

      Benefit of the doubt to OP – may not be entitled to rent reduction, but the construction certainly reduces market value. I had success negotiating a reduced rent – when the leverage was that I would otherwise move out, and they were not going to be able to rent the unit to someone else at market. Only works if tenant is month to month, or is up for renewal, and the building had sufficient vacancies that they are feeling the hurt already.

      • Obvious

        the construction only temporarily (even if it’s a couple years) reduces market value, but in the long term it greatly enhances market value. my recommendation is to not go complaining to your landlord because they’ll happily terminate your lease (if your month to month) so they can massively “hike up” the rent for the next tenant. instead, reach out to DCRA, your council person, WCP, your ANC, or a news outlet that will shed light on this (they’ll be happy to complain about tax subsidies, etc.).

        • Anon NS

          Except this is a rental, not condo, so long term value is basically irrelevant to the tenant. No one is going to pay jacked up rent now just bc a year from now the place will be a nice apartment. New tenants will just go elsewhere. And landlords would rather cut a deal than have an empty apartment for a year – especially bc rent control is meaningless in DC, so they can just jack up the rent in a year regardless. I say this having successfully negotiated for reduced rent (temporarily, of course) under similar circumstances. But again, tenant must have leverage – i.e. ability to vacate bc month-to-month or lease up for renewal.

          • MoldieOldie

            well the OP and you both spoke to “rent” not ownership, but regardless market value effects both. have you ever noticed how long building owners in Adams Morgan are willing to go without commercial tenants (applies to non-business individuals also)? case(s) in point: the former Payless, the former Ghana Cafe, the former Heller’s (Mt. P.), the former California liquor store, the former Millie & Al’s, etc. can existing and prospective tenants go elsewhere – obviously yes. but don’t think landlords aren’t willing to “wait it out” in terms of having vacancies.

          • Anon NS

            Commercial leases are a completely different animal. They are for many years – so it makes sense for landlords to hold out for a higher paying tenant, rather than lock themselves into accepting a lower amount for years and years, especially if they think the market may rise next year.
            .
            Residential leases are rarely longer than 12 months. It makes no sense to have a unit sit for a year – even if the landlord thinks the market will rise next year. That’s because if the market rises in a year, they can just raise the rent in a year. They are not locked into the lower rate.
            .
            And, to my point, a tenant is not going to over pay for an apartment for this year, just because two years from now the apartment will be worth more. If that’s how you think it works, I have some apartments I’d like to rent you.

          • MoldieOldie

            who said anything about “over pay[ing]” rent? and how much rental income are property managers willing to forgo before they’ve violated their fiduciary responsibility to investors, trust funds, etc.? how much rent has the Ghana Cafe forgone in the eight years (?) it’s been closed. as a guess: $8K x 12mos. x 8yrs. anyway, sure I’ll rent all the apartments you’ve got – let’s negotiate the terms.

        • jonah

          As an ANC Commissioner I don’t know if I would be able to do much. I would likely direct them to 311 for a noise complaint. It is possible the developer has an agreement with the ANC, if they needed to come to them for support, that relates to quality of life issues for neighbors. Outside of that I would get your Councilmember’s constituent services staff on it.

      • Anon for this

        This type of behavior, along with tenant abuse of TOPA, are among the reasons I hate being a landlord in DC, though I’ve generally been fortunate enough to have honest tenants.

        • Anon NS

          It’s not “dishonest” for a tenant to negotiate the lease amount – any more than it is to negotiate down from the sticker price when buying a car or the list price when buying a home. You are not entitled to your asking price, sir. It’s a contract, and both sides get to negotiate. If you can get more, then lease to someone else. But it’s not “dishonest” for a tenant to negotiate. (Again, as clearly indicated in my comment, I’m talking about not paying amount due in an executed lease – I’m talking about negotiating when there is no lease.)

          • Anon NS

            **I’m NOT talking about not paying amount due…

          • JoDa

            I see both of your points on this. Of course, a tenant or prospective tenant is free to negotiate with the landlord regarding the terms of the lease, including rent. If a situation arises when a tenant is month-to-month or would be up for renewal of a longer-term lease that would make the apartment less desirable for a new tenant, there’s nothing *wrong* with bringing that up at the negotiating table. In a case like this, if the tenant has good reason to believe that the noise would dissuade replacement tenants, and they would be willing to make the rent reduction temporary and contingent on the conclusion of the construction, it might not hurt to ask (worst case scenario, realistically, is the landlord says “no” and then you choose to stick it out or move).
            .
            But, anyone who rents out individual or small properties around here has dealt with the “hard bargainer.” There’s always *that person* who thinks they can talk you down from a reasonable rent because your place just “isn’t up to snuff” and/or they are “the best tenant ever.” Almost every time I have a vacancy, I get one or more of these folks. I price my places a little below market so that I can just go back to them and (truthfully) say “I have several applications for the property at the current rent, and plan to decide on a tenant on X at Y time (usually a couple days away). If you are interested in renting the property, please submit your application by then.” Still, some of them have texted me an hour after the deadline and said “I know you didn’t get anyone with a credit score like mine and who you know will pay the rent every month…how about you take $150 off the rent and I’ll consider it. No one’s going to pay that much for a place with {some small fault} unless they’re desperate.” I even had one guy sic his mom on me a few years ago (“well, if you want my honey bunny to rent here you’re just GOING to have to redo the entire kitchen and refinish these NASTY floors and, ugh, the bathroom tile is just gross…OR, you know, if it was a little cheaper, maybe it would be worth it…”). Honestly, I wouldn’t rent to them even with an 850 credit score and a billion dollars in the bank because DRAMA, but they’re ALWAYS there.

          • Anon NS

            Yeah, those people are annoying. But it sounds like you price realistically and have other options, so you thankfully can just ignore them. I wouldn’t want to rent to them either! life is too short.
            .
            In my situation, I think I had sucess because – large building with lots of turn over + large/lengthy construction project directly across the street, which created higher than usual number of vacancies. Supply/demand in my favor.
            .
            I will add – When its time to renew a lease or when it’s month-to-month, landlords have no qualms about raising rent, even substantially if meets market. It’s a real bummer when you’re a tenant, all moved in, all settled – and you receive proper notice that if you want to stay, you are going to need to pay a lot more. Tenants have no control over the neighborhood conditions that cause market rents to increase. It’s a bummer, but it’s not “dishonest.” It’s just how it works. I’m sure it also is a bummer if you’re a landlord and something out of your control causes market rent to decrease. But it’s kinda disingenuous to blame the tenant for wanting to negotiate for current market, when the landlord would do the same thing if market moved the other direction. It’s just how it works.

    • textdoc

      +1 to “Why would you be entitled to rent reduction? Your landlord has no control over the construction of a hotel across the street.”

  • RampRaupRoe

    Living on the same block, I’ll throw in my complaints for all the construction vehicles taking entire blocks of parking, urine water bottles left on the sidewalk, and the construction workers yelling at each other instead of using radios. On the hotel’s website, they have reservations starting for 15 May, so I guess we’re only in for six more weeks of construction pain before swarms of hotel guests block lanes on Columbia Road waiting to valet their car or hotel guests parking on Champlain or Euclid Streets to grab a drink.

    • Truxton Thomas

      I’ve never thought about construction workers being responsible for the pee bottles. I’ve seen them plopped out of idling cabs outside my house, so I figured it was just cabbies. Good to know there are other people I can blame as well!

    • Tom

      At least yours use bottles. I walked past some guys rehabbing a house in LeDroit the other day, and one of them was standing on the sidewalk using an open van door to cover up the fact that he was hanging dong and peeing all over the curb.

    • AMDCer

      Hotels never open on time – I’m betting those May 15 reservations get bumped to a different hotel. Even after construction is done (which it apparently is not) hotels need time to get up and running – rooms need to be decorated/furnished, computer systems installed, staff need to be trained, restaurants equipped/tested, etc.

      • d

        Yeah, it was May 1 when I looked about a month ago. Considering there are still some unenclosed walls I’d say June is more likely. Still, just a couple months away, and if the OP has put up with it this long…

  • Anon

    File a noise complaint with the city if it’s that bad, though I suspect that DC gov won’t find cause to write a citation. And if they do, that’s all that’s likely to come out of this. :-/

  • stacksp

    Fun fact. This used to be a popular night club back in the day called the La Pena

    • Ward One Resident

      Like pre-1912? Because that’s when the church was built that the hotel is “replacing”

    • Anon

      I think you’re confusing this with the building on U st?

    • stacksp

      In the late 90s/early 2000s, the Go Go band(s) Backyard Band and Rare Essence performed here weekly on Fridays and Saturday Nights slanted church floors and all. The pews were removed so it was an open dance hall with slanted wood floors. I was driving at the time so it had be 96/97 or later.

      Looking on Youtube now for footage/and or flier as evidence. One website that I believe has the evidence is blocked by my jobs VPN.

      • JayDC

        Fascinating. I’ve lived on Biltmore 18 years and don’t recall it ever being used as performance space. Must have been before I moved in the area. There was a nightclub across the street in one of those buildings back in the 90’s.

  • Q

    I don’t know of any remedies, just deepest sympathies because that SUCKS. I lived across the street from a site where they were building a 12-story hotel (for SIXTEEN MONTHS), and it drove me mad. How about those trucks that beep endlessly, like they’ve left them in reverse or something? I am SO sorry.

  • Anonymous
    • MoldieOldie

      hiring quotas are stupid and the only reason the city asks for them is PR. National Park is a great example. just turns out not enough qualified or interested hires in DC

  • Anon

    Email your council member with photos, videos, etc. if they’re breaking rules/orders, etc. I live in SW and we are on year 2 with construction noise (the Wharf and now a new apartment building *right* in front of ours). While my partner and I knew we were limited in what we could do, when the construction noise started at 4:30am-6:30am, we got up and took videos and emailed them to our council member. It continued for a bit, but after multiple emails, the pre-7am noise seems to have stopped.

    The drilling at 7am on Saturdays is a real joy though.

  • PJL

    Nearby construction (and associated dust, etc.) is a part of city living. I understand your concerns re: the 24/7 generators etc, but other than that it sounds like they’re complying with noise laws unless you’ve left something out. Contact DCRA on that front and check their permits. They might have an after hours permit (just guessing).
    Rent reduction is between you and your landlord…good luck with that.

  • Something Else DC Tenant

    Thanks so much for all the responses and suggestions. Appreciate the help and sympathy!

  • Gilla

    Just writing to empathize with you – when I was living in Amsterdam I lived across from construction and it was miserable.

    Some of the landlords posting on here seem like fun at parties – have a little empathy if nothing else.

  • niceflipflop

    I can absolutely sympathize with you, OP, but the ultimate irony here is that if you bitch and moan enough to actually make a difference (reality check: you can’t), then you’re only extending your own pain. Best to just keep your mouth shut. The less guff they get from you and your neighbors, the quicker they get done, and the sooner the noise stops. It sucks, but face it, these are the things that have to be sorted before work begins. Once it’s underway, they’ve got you by the short hairs.

  • Anon3

    If noise is the primary issue for sleeping, you could try using a white noise machine (e.g. Dohm for about $50), that drowns out or neutralizes most of the street noise. My bedroom faces Rhode Island ave in shaw, and there is lot of traffic noise, plus construction noise nowadays because of the underground water tunnel project. The machine really makes a big diff..

  • AdMo Anon

    You could try complaining directly to the site manager? May not work but we’re a couple of blocks away on Lanier, and have a similar situation: a residential building (the one next to the Burger King on Columbia Road) is going up behind us and the noise and congestion has had a significant impact on all the neighbors in the area. Parking spots in the heavily-used alleyway between Lanier and Columbia are frequently blocked (it was bad enough with delivery trucks double-parking before) and they’ve often begun what sounds like pile-driving (shaking the nearby houses) as early as 6:30am on weekdays. A number of us have been out to complain to the site manager, which has helped somewhat. Still a massive pain but they seem keen to avoid any penalties and general ill-will. Could be an anomaly though.

  • AD

    I’m pretty sure I live in your building, because this is daily life for me. The ongoing construction has caused a FLOOD of mice in our building that were not previously there. Along with this, they are building a new restaurant (or something close) to that Burger King and there are constantly trucks in the alley way behind my building beeping and honking. They woke me up at 6 a.m. this morning. It is unreal.

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