The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) started this site to create a easy-to-find, easy-to-use resource for property owners to talk with us directly about how to be safe and legal when renting one of the thousands of basement apartments in the District. While some have suggested we create a flier or a some sort of booklet (we’ll do that too), the number of various scenarios based on location, age of your home, history of the unit, among many others makes outreach extremely difficult. We’ll always be missing some exception or variable with a single flier. So we’re launching this site to create a central location not only for information and tips from DCRA but also to allow residents to share their stories with DCRA and other property owners.
The reason a license is required for basement apartments in the first place is to ensure that the property is inspected and meet codes – especially fire safety codes. Rental licenses are not a major money maker for the city, but are extremely important for the safety of your tenants. And we are aggressively going after illegal rentals. Over the past few months, we have discovered illegal rentals with major gas leaks that could have cause a major explosion in the tenant’s unit AND the landlords home. We also discovered two units filled with Carbon Monoxide from leaky water heaters.
So while avoiding DCRA investigators might be an incentive for some of you to save a few hundred bucks for the license and inspection, you could be putting your tenant and yourself in danger. These are real issues. People want to know they’re safe in their rental and they can look you up right now and report you.
And even if you plan to continue to rent illegally – the C of O, license and inspection is just $280 total and good for two years which is not much when you’ll make 25K for rental – we strongly suggest you get an independent inspection.
And people with safe units are getting their licenses in 30-45 days. For people with unsafe units, why would you want to put people in there anyway? While I’m sure you need extra cash, at least be safe and protect your tenants and yourself.
We hope you find this useful and please comment – good, bad or curious. We depend on you to help ask the questions no one is asking.
Some of the language was previously posted on the Prince of Petworth blog.