Landlord Pledge Criticized
DCRA says lack of participation renders GU landlord pledge ineffective
Published: Friday, March 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 30, 2012 02:03
Six months after the debut of the university’s landlord pledge — an agreement that calls on landlords to abide by D.C. regulations — some city officials are questioning its impact.
Since the initiative was announced last October, 36 landlords representing 93 properties have signed the pledge.
According to Helder Gil, a spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, more than 1,250 rental properties are registered in the 20007 zip code, which includes the neighborhoods of Georgetown, Burleith and Foxhall Village. He estimated that at least 100 propertiesare currently being rented without proper licensing in the area.
Currently, 1,250 undergraduates and 327 graduate students rent properties in West Georgetown and Burleith, according to Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh.
Gil said the pledge is a good opportunity to increase students’ awareness of their rights as renters, but it has not had a significant impact on the numbers of unlicensed properties rented in Georgetown.
“I think the folks that are renting … properties that don’t meet code are not likely to be signing the pledge,” he said. “These are the ones that I think both [the DCRA] and the university are concerned about.”
Bill Starrels, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who has advocated for greater landlord accountability since a fire in a rental house killed Daniel Rigby (MSB ’05) in 2004, questioned whether the pledge has had its intended effect.
“The landlords haven’t changed; the management companies haven’t changed [since the pledge was created],” he said. “Things are close to the status quo, I’ve been hearing.”
Landlord Dori Konopka, one of the signatories, said that the pledge has potential, but students and landlords need to take it seriously.
“It’s a good policy, and if everyone followed it, [the pledge] would work really well. Unfortunately, there are students who don’t pay attention, and there are landlords who don’t pay attention,” she said.
According to university spokeswoman Stacy Kerr, the pledge is a part of wider efforts to make students more aware of their rights as tenants. On April 13, the university will bring a program support specialist from D.C.’s Office of the Tenant Advocate to campus to answer students’ questions about renting.
Gil said that these efforts are crucial to ensuring that student tenants are protected.
“The university is really stepping up its advocacy for its off-campus students so that they [can live] in safe and legal housing conditions. [It is] a great thing for the university to be highlighting the fact that its students … have basic housing rights to safe and legal housing conditions,” he said.
Landlord David Solovey, who rents his property in Burleith to students and has also signed onto the pledge, said that the issue is a joint concern for landlords and tenants.
“I’ve been a landlord [in Georgetown] for 48 years. Anything that is involved with the school and the community, I’m interested in,” he said.