Washington, D.C., is taking a proactive step toward minimizing code violations at apartment buildings throughout the city. The District plans to place the city's 4,800 rental properties on a four-year inspection cycle; buildings with violations will be placed on a two-year cycle. The city currently does not have a routine inspection process-violations are most often detected when residents launch a complaint or a landlord files a petition to raise rents, which requires a building inspection.
The move comes following an investigative series that ran in The Washington Post, which cited properties riddled with major health, safety, and security issues. "The minute that article was above the fold in the Post, I knew that it would come to something like this," says K. David Meit, executive vice president of DARO Realty, a D.C.-based property management firm. "As a very professional operator, I have no concerns. I think it's important that the housing stock in any city is maintained in a safe and habitable condition. The only concern then is what does the process look like because any regulation causes, time, money, and effort to manage."
Industry experts are hesitant to say whether the new inspection process will have a positive impact on the city since the specifics as to how the plan will operate have not yet been finalized. "It would be premature to say whether the plan will be successful or not," says Rachel Arnold, director of public affairs at the National Apartment Association. "It depends very much on what is included in the program and how it's implemented."
D.C. owners and operators are encouraged that the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has solicited the advice of the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. (AOBA), to ensure the inspection process is conducted fairly. "We have a mantra here that responsible housing providers have nothing to fear from vigorous, even-handed code enforcement, and we think this approach will ultimately be more even-handed than the complaint-driven one that has been in place," says Shaun Pharr, AOBA's senior vice president of government affairs. "The challenge is to make sure they implement an even-handed code. The good news is they have reached out to the responsible rental housing providers for input about what they are doing and how they should go about doing it."