CLC attorney Anne Cunningham recently testified about three separate housing bills. WAMU's Martin Austermuhle and DCist's Natalie Delgadillo wrote about the proceedings:
Advocates at D.C. organizations that often represent tenants, including the Children’s Law Center and Legal Counsel for the Elderly, say that the D.C. agency tasked with addressing housing violations—the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—does not do an adequate job of protecting tenants.
The three bills before the council would, respectively, deny landlords basic business licenses and building permits when they neglect their buildings; create a new housing condition abatement fund and mandate referrals of repeat offenders to the D.C. AG's’s office; and require that the mayor's office repair serious violations that remain unfixed six months after DCRA gets involved and charge the property owner.
Representatives for the Children’s Law Center and Legal Counsel for the Elderly testified at Tuesday’s hearing, expressing both serious concern with DCRA and general support for the measures before council, with some amendments.
Anne Cunningham of the Children’s Law Center stressed that the organization favors splitting DCRA up into smaller agencies: one for buildings and construction, one for permitting and licensing, and a new “Tenant protection agency” that would address violations and enforcement. (Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has already proposed a bill that would split the agency up into separate building and licensing factions).
Cunningham also pointed out that the bill which would take away business licenses, At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman’s Slumlord Deterrence Amendment Act, would only bar the specific LLC involved in the violations from obtaining or renewing a business license. Building owners often create a separate LLC for every building they operate, which would make this enforcement mechanism more or less moot.
“Unfortunately, there is no current mechanism for determining who owns an LLC in D.C. So, this bill must include a component mandating disclosure of all individuals and businesses with an ownership interest in an LLC,” Cunningham said in her testimony.