Flanked by a platoon of city officials, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty showed up at a run-down apartment building in Southeast Washington today to highlight the city's effort to force landlords to clean up properties allegedly riddled with health, building and safety violations.
"This is a message about the failure of some landlords to live up to what is right, what is decent and what is lawful," Fenty said at a a news conference held in the hallway of the 30-unit building, which officials said had 233 violations. "For the first time this is the District government being proactive and moving aggressively to go after slum lords before we sit around and wait for the residents to bring the matter to our attention."
Fenty, D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles and Linda K. Argo, director of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, held the event to highlight an eight- month effort in which the city filed lawsuits against the owners of 13 apartment buildings that had a combined total of 2,800 housing code violations. The action came after a Washington Post series highlighted many of the problems.
As city officials talked about successfully making landlords clean up their properties, several residents emerged to take them all---Fenty included---on a tour of their units, showing that there was still plenty of work to do.
"I have to constantly search for the mice up in here," said resident Charalene Morgan as she led Fenty and Nickles through her one-bedroom apartment. When Morgan got into her kitchen she looked at a tiny stove and said, "Every time I fry chicken wings, the smoke alarm goes off."
"That happens in my house," joked Nickles, who lives in Great Falls. (He has promised to buy or rent in the city, as is required of cabinet officials.)
"This administration is not going to let these people down," he went on to say. In the past we have only looked at housing code violations when someone complained. The big point is from now on we are going to be going out to every ward to inspect everyone of the 4,800 units, plus those folks who complain to us."