City Paper Widget

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How Many People Can Live in a Logan Circle Row House?

At its regular monthly meeting March 4, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle heard from Logan Circle residents who believe a neighboring row house at 1517 12th Street NW was about to a used as a rooming house. The neighbor asked ANC2F to pass a resolution asking DC's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to deny the owner a rooming house permit, should one be applied for. The ANC did not vote on the matter as requested, but passed a resolution asking DCRA to give the matter "special attention".

The property last Saturday
A neighbor reported that the property had been advertised as a shared house for eight people on Radpad and Craigslist, with leases beginning March 1. These ads (which no longer appear) advertised an open house on February 18. According to the neighbor's written statement to the ANC:

...I and three other neighbors in the area went to an open house on the property. That is when we discovered that the new owner had converted the single family row house into a shared house with 9 or 10 bedrooms -- 2 bedrooms on the first floor (where the dining and living room were), 3 bedrooms on the second floor, 3 bedrooms on the 3rd floor and another unit in the basement, which they decribed as for 2 people. There is one kitchen on the first floor and one in the basement and 3.5 bathrooms (1 is attached to a room). Each room was being rented from $995-$1095/mo. (Each room had a piece of paper taped to it with a dollar amount written on it.)
Neighbors take action

The neighbors did some research on DCRA regulations with the help of the ANC and the office of DC Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward Two). They discovered the legal occupancy limit for a two-unit single family house is eight -- six in main unit, two in the basement -- but could not operate as a rooming house without a business license and an inspection. Furthermore, the owner had a license that would have allowed him to rent the house to a single family only. On February 23, he applied for a two-family rental license, the neighbor's written statement says. DCRA records also show that the first recent permit for electrical work on the property was issued on February 27.

The neighbors lobbied DCRA who issued a Compliance Notice to the owner, also on February 27. DCRA also monitored a March 1 open house and passed out copies of the Compliance Notice to people coming to view the house by appointment.

"It's not a legal unit at this point," said a neighbor.

"We're very concerned about the safety and integrity of the house," said another.

An abutting neighbor reported that the fireplace in the house had recently been used, and smoke had come into the neighbor's house -- indicating that the fireplace was not adequately vented. There was some question whether the owner had gotten the necessary permits for improving the house.

"[W]e are very concerned that the excessive occupancy and density of a 1870s rowhouse presents issues that must be closely examined, such as the burden on public utilites, sanitation, parking, etc.," the neighbors statement to the ANC says.

"I don't think we're doing anybody a favor putting nine to twelve people in there," Sherri Kimbel told the ANC at the meeting. Kimbel is a Logan Circle resident who is also Director of Constituent Services at Councilmember Evans' office.

ANC not quite sure what to do

"It's sort of a bad message if we take action," said ANC2F Chair John Fanning (Commissioner for district 04). Fanning worried about the precedent such an action would set.

"I think that the precedent we are setting is that we are insisting that people follow the rules," said Commissioner Pepin Tuma (district 03).

A motion to send a letter as requested by the neighbors -- that is, to ask for the denial of a rooming house license -- was not made by any Commissioner or voted on. Instead, the ANC unanimously voted to send a letter to DCRA asking them to give the matter their "special attention". Chair John Fanning also promised to follow up personally with phone calls.

1517 12th Street is in Fanning's ANC district.

The house seemed unoccupied as of last Saturday, March 7.


  1. Send it to DCRA. Regulations prohibit 5 or more unrelated people living in a single home. This is clearly in violation. The only trick will be in getting inspectors in so the place can be inspected. Preserve any records of the advertisement/interior photos.

  2. Shared houses are part of DC, but this one is pushing the concept a bit over the top.

  3. The usual greedy landlord who could care less about the safety of tenants or the neighbors--the developers aren't much better--they'll buy it and try and turn it into 7 units...