Mayor Adrian Fenty hasn't yet fulfilled his promises to reform the dysfunctional D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. A Legal Times investigation published today found DCRA officials rarely issue fines for repeat housing code violations, often don't collect fines when they are issued, and sometimes sign off on violations as being abated even while tenants are still experiencing problems.
One of the worst examples is Dahlgreen Courts, a 90-unit apartment complex of two red-brick buildings in Northeast D.C., which has been cited for more than 500 housing code violations since last October. The violations have included rodent infestations, defective locks, faulty electrical outlets, cracked ceilings, and unsanitary conditions created by uncapped sewer lines and trash left on the property. DCRA officials filed notices of "potential fines" totaling more than $100,000, but they never actually issued a single fine against landlord Willis Limited Partnership or property manager CIH Properties.
Last week, DCRA officials claimed all of the hundreds of violations at Dahlgreen Courts had been abated, leading the D.C. Attorney General's Office to close a criminal investigation with no charges being filed against the landlord or property manager. However, a tour of the complex last week by a Legal Times reporter revealed ongoing maintenance problems and unabated housing code violations, including exposed pipes, broken windows, and junk discarded behind the buildings.
After being contacted by Legal Times, officials from DCRA and the Attorney General's Office announced last Thursday they are reopening the case. Inspectors and attorneys will visit Dahlgreen Courts to "determine whether previous violations remain unabated" and to see if "any new violations exist," according to the joint statement from both agencies.
For more on the District's lack of housing code enforcement, see this Legal Times article written last October.