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“DCRA Housing Inspection for Rental Units – Windows??”

by Prince Of Petworth May 3, 2017 at 1:15 pm 52 Comments

window
Photo by PoPville flickr user Victoria Pickering

“Dear PoPville,

To anyone that might shed some light on what “with ease” means.

Long story short, DCRA and I went through a series of incredibly confusing missteps this morning trying to get the inspector in for an early morning rental unit inspection. They apparently will just knock on the door and leave if you don’t answer unless you specifically ask for a courtesy call. Since I already have a tenant in there and it’s a secure access building, I mistakenly thought that common sense and necessity would require them to call me to access the unit so I waited in the courtyard. Nope. They left a door hanger with a message. The funny thing is that I was on the phone with the DCRA inspection office for almost 45 min trying to figure out where the inspector was and during this exact time he had already come and gone.

Longer story shorter, they were kind enough to reschedule to have the inspector come out again this afternoon, but only after a lot of back and forth including telling me that the person I spoke to on the phone this morning doesn’t exist. Okay.

So the inspector comes back and looks through the apartment unit. Our condo building was built in 2009, is completely compliant in every way and I have never had any complaints from our tenant. The inspector failed us, however, due to “the windows not opening with ease.” When I asked what that meant, he kept repeating “well, it doesn’t open with ease…WITH EASE.” I watched this man try to open aluminum, construction grade windows with one hand unsuccessfully. So then I went and opened all the windows in question for him albeit with two hands, but not with an excessive amount of effort. He said that they were heavy and failed us on that technicality.

I understand if this is a safety issue for windows that are the only means of egress other than the door. However, there is a Juliet balcony door that I opened for him that could be used in emergency situations in this 700sq ft unit. But the crazy things is that I opened all the windows anyways, in front of him!

So my questions are:

1. What does “with ease” mean? Does it stipulate that it has to be opened with one hand? Our condo windows are heavy, but all open fully though you have to use two hands.

2. Why is this so subjective?

3. Is this really a safety issue?

4. How many people actually get this rental inspection done?

5. Do I really need to have this inspection done?

6. Now that I have failed a first inspection, will I be fined?

If you have any stories like this or advice to share about DCRA inspections, I would really appreciate it. Right now, it seems to me that they were miffed that they had to come out again and were punitive in their already subjective decision.

Here is language from the DCRA website when you get the basic business license to rent your unit:

DCRA Housing Inspection
All applicants for a Basic Business License for the One Family Rental category is required to have a housing inspection post issuance of this license. Appointments for housing inspections are scheduled and conducted by the Inspections and Compliance Administration, (202) 442-9557, Option 6. This housing inspection is performed to ensure the premise is in compliance with DC Housing Codes and is necessary to ensure the health and safety of renters.

Failure to meet all requirements within forty-five (45) days from the date of license issuance may result in the revocation of your Basic Business License, loss of paid fees, and additional administrative and civil penalties. Violations of the code that are not listed on the checklist[PDF] are subject to the issuance of a notice of violation.”

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