Take a quick look on Craigslist, and you’ll see that renting a room in a Logan Circle rowhouse comes at a steep price. Landing just a single room in a six-bedroom house can cost you upwards of $1,200 per month. If people are willing to pay that much in the high-demand neighborhood, it’s no wonder landlords are trying to squeeze as many people as possible into homes.
But just how many people can you fit into a group house without breaking the law and aggravating your neighbors? One man recently found out the hard way the answer is not eight.
Joseph Breslin, 31, bought a house — listed as a four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom house on Zillow — in the 1500 block of 12th Street NW in December and decided to rent it out. He put listings on Craigslist and Radpad and held an open house in February. When curious neighbors showed up, according to the Short Articles about Long Meetings blog, they discovered Breslin was considering fitting 10 tenants into the house by converting the dining and living rooms into bedrooms. The separate basement apartment could fit another tenant or two.
Neighbors weren’t happy and contacted their local Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the D.C. Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs.
According to zoning regulations, no more than six unrelated people can live in a single-family home (a rowhouse is considered a single-family home.) More than six related people — two parents and six children, for instance — can live in a single home. If a basement meets DCRA requirements, which generally means it has a separate bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, it can count as a separate single-family home. Any more than that, and a property owner would need to obtain a permit, such as a rooming house license.
At the next open house in March, Breslin says someone from DCRA showed up and handed out fliers, posting some on windows explaining zoning laws.
“Originally, I was trying to see what the level of interest would be if we pursued a rooming house designation, so we held a couple of showings to see if people would be interested in that, and very quickly we got push back from neighbors,” Breslin said Tuesday. “I think the neighbors’ concerns are now allayed.”
Breslin said the plan is now to rent out the house to six tenants this month, with rent about $6,000 a month. He said he has a certificate of occupancy for the basement unit and plans to rent that out as well.
At an ANC meeting last week, ANC2F Chairman John Fanning, who also represents the district in which Breslin’s house is located, said he would send a letter to DCRA to make sure “special attention” is paid to the house.
“There are a lot of quality of life issues, so I understood the residents’ concerns. But for the home purchaser, you can’t really determine what he can and cannot put there if he follows the regulatory process,” Fanning said. “I think [Breslin] understood the concerns now that I’ve had a discussion with him. I feel comfortable that he’ll do the right thing as a homeowner and respect the regulatory process.”