While DCRA has made great strides at opening communications, there is still some work to be done. While some landlords are reluctant to register because it may hurt their ability to claim a home as their residence--others avoid the process due to red tape and bureaucracy. One reader, Adrienne, wrote in with her story.
Several months ago I applied for a Basic Business Licence in order to rent out two rooms in my house. Part of that process includes an inspector coming to the house to make sure I am complying with all the health and safety regulations. He refused to pass my house "pending interpretation of the zoning laws," insisting that I should not allowed to rent out two rooms. He directed me to call the DC Office of Permits, which directed me to call the Licensing Office, which directed me back to the Inspection Unit, which then directed me to the Office of Zoning, which directed me to the Home Owners Center, which directed back to the Office of Zoning.Thankfully Adrienne stuck through the process and was able to get her business license. I offered to put her in touch with contacts at DCRA, but fortunately the matter has finally been resolved. I can see how some people in Adrienne's position might give up and just operate illegally. Government inefficiency certainly isn't an excuse for breaking the law, but this whole process could be made smoother. While I understand there are certain turf wars between agencies and departments, it's always frustrating when no one is willing to see a problem through to a resolution. Recently I had to deal with some issues with the DMV, which I assumed would be a nightmare. Eventually I ended up working directly with the Director of the DMV and her assistant who were able to get everything straightened out. I applauded their helpfulness, but like DCRA's Twitter, these resources are only helpful for people who know they exist and who have access. Adrienne's troubles might have been straightened out had she Tweeted to @DCRA, but many people are likely unaware.
Three months later, I had finally gotten the zoning issue settled, scheduled another inspection, only to have the new inspector come out and tell me that I hadn't needed to contact the Office of Zoning, because it clearly stated in the DC code that I could rent out two rooms. The previous inspector cost me three months of income from rent, including countless hours of phone calls trying to get the various DC department to return my calls.
We see a lot of talk around blogs about buying property and rental units, however there is little talk about whether landlords obtain proper licenses. When was the last time you saw a Craigslist post that touted a property was licensed and inspected. When was the last time that you, as a renter, verified if a property was registered with the city?
Thanks to Adrienne for sharing her story and bringing this issue to light. She's the first winner of the GRAB BAG GIVEAWAY.