GU Proposes Pledging System for Landlords
Published: Friday, October 21, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011 08:10
The university will roll out a landlord pledge initiative starting early next week in an effort to protect students who live off campus while improving neighborhood relations.
In exchange for being recognized in an online list of university-approved landlords, those who sign the pledge will commit to maintaining their properties in compliance with D.C. law, licensing their properties with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and addressing issues affecting quality of life in the community.
The program will also allow the university to contact landlords who receive credible student complaints. Landlords who repeatedly fail to address these concerns will be publicly named on the Georgetown website.
University spokeswoman Stacy Kerr said that while the pledge does not represent a new strategy, the initiative is designed to hold landlords more accountable for the states of their properties.
"The goal is to hold landlords accountable," she said. "We're recognizing the student side of this and that landlords who are renting to students have to meet certain expectations."
Kerr added that the pledge initiative is part of a broader effort by the university to address the concerns of students living off campus. She noted that Georgetown has taken steps to strengthen its relationship with the DCRA, the agency that regulates the properties students rent off campus.
"It's great to see that [the DCRA] is taking this as seriously as we are. They've come on campus this fall and held office hours to meet with students with concerns," she said.
Debbie Meritz Olsen, who owns four properties in Georgetown and Burleith rented by Georgetown students, was enthusiastic about the pledge.
"The pledge sets up a framework demonstrating a commitment by landlords to work in harmony with the local community and to maintain quality housing for Georgetown students that is also consistent with the residential standards in that local community," she said.
Olsen said that, though she already adheres to the requirements outlined in the pledge, the framework will hold landlords accountable and allow them to hone their own reputations.
"You always want to maintain good relationships with the students. You want students to be able to seek you out, find you year after year, and [to] be known as a good and responsible landlord," Olsen said. "The pledge is a terrific way to make clear to students and community that landlords who sign are committed to living up to these standards."
Advisory Neighborhood Commission District 2E Commissioner Bill Starrels commended the university's efforts to reinforce landlords' responsibilities, but stressed that the D.C. government already has measures in place to hold landlords accountable.
"Obviously, reinforcing that landlords have to abide by D.C. [law] is a good thing. But every student that is looking to rent a house off campus should check the DCRA website to make sure that it has a license," he said
Starrels has been a prominent advocate of accountability for Georgetown landlords since a fire at 3318 Prospect St. killed Daniel Rigby (MSB '05) in 2004. The Hoya reported on Nov. 5, 2004 that D.C. fire inspectors said that the fire could have been prevented if the house had met certain safety standards.
But William Miller (SFS '14) questioned whether the pledge would change rogue landlords' behavior.
"This seems like a largely worthless measure for keeping landlords accountable. Those who sign the pledge are simply pledging to follow laws that are already on the books," he said. "I guess it's a start."
Starrels said that he hopes the pledge will improve the security of students' living conditions.
"Students have [the same right] as any other tenant of any other landlord to have [landlords] follow the rules," he said.