City to Set Up Apartment Checks

Routine Inspections Will Be Designed to Track Code Violations

Mayor Adrian Fenty and city officials toured Washington apartments in an effort to force landlords to clean up residences with safety and health violations. Video by Hamil Harris/The Washington Post
By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 8, 2009

The District is planning to place the city's 4,800 apartment buildings on a four-year inspection cycle, and properties found with violations will be placed on a two-year cycle, city officials said yesterday.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) announced the plan at a news conference at a Southeast apartment building, where he pointed out that the landlord had more than 200 violations until a city lawsuit filed in April forced him and 12 other landlords to address code problems.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles and Linda K. Argo, director of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, as well as several other officials, accompanied the mayor.

They said that more than 80 percent of 2,800 housing code violations had been eliminated.

As Fenty talked about the Southeast building's success -- most of its 233 violations had been cleared -- three residents waited to tell their stories.

The mayor said, "For the first time, this is the District government being proactive and moving aggressively to go after slumlords before we sit around and wait for the residents to bring the matter to our attention."

Residents interrupted the news conference and took the mayor and his officials on a tour.

"I have to constantly search for the mice up in here," Charalene Morgan said as she guided the visitors through her one-bedroom apartment, where she pointed out bugs and rat droppings.

City officials seemed to have been taken by surprise but called workers to check on issues, including a leaky roof, a faulty smoke detector and a broken window.

The city has not had a routine and systematic inspection process, Nickles said later in an interview.

"In the past, we have only looked at housing code violations when someone complained," he said. "The big point is from now on we are going to be going out to every ward to inspect every one of the 4,800 units, plus those folks who complain to us."

In April, the city sued 13 property owners who had about 330 units, saying that their buildings were riddled with health, safety and security violations. The action came after a series of articles in The Washington Post.

On Sept. 15, the D.C. Superior Court severed the case for several owners who had fixed up their units, leaving eight landlords in the lawsuit. Some of those removed from the suit were Capitol East Partners LLC, which had nearly 600 violations for 114 units; Ontario Partners, which had 204 violations for 50 units; and Georgia Avenue LLC, which had 162 violations for its 21 units.

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