Press Release | March 1, 2016

Bill Gives DC Agencies New Powers to Collect From Negligent Landlords - Office of Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau

Legislation from Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau will hold landlords accountable for temporary relocation costs due to poor maintenance

WASHINGTON – The Attorney General and the Office of the Tenant Advocate will get new powers to hold landlords accountable for temporary relocation costs due to poor maintenance under legislation introduced today by Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau. The bill was co-introduced by Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) and cosponsored by Councilmembers Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7).

“This bill is about improving conditions for renters in the District and protecting them from landlords who defer needed maintenance,” said Councilmember Nadeau. “Under this bill, more tenants will have access to help in emergencies caused by their landlord’s neglect. The drafting of this legislation involved close collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Tenant Advocate and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, who all play a part in making sure tenants are protected in the District.”

The legislation would hold landlords accountable for relocation costs when tenants are displaced due to circumstances beyond their control when the housing provider has failed to satisfy his or her obligations with respect to maintenance. It gives OTA the authority to impose liens to collect unpaid temporary relocation costs and gives the Office of the Attorney General the authority to pursue payment from landlords if the landlords do not reimburse tenants. The bill is the result of collaboration between the Councilmember and agencies that will give more tenants access to temporary relocation funding.

“I wish to express my deep gratitude to Councilmember Nadeau for introducing ‘OTA lien authority’ legislation.  I also thank her able staff and our sister agencies OAG and DCRA for helping in the drafting process, and Attorney General Racine for his support,” said Johanna Shreve, Chief Tenant Advocate for the District of Columbia. “The OTA provides emergency housing assistance to tenants who have been displaced by fire, floods, government closures, and other circumstances that are beyond the tenant’s control.  Sometimes this disruption in tenants’ lives, and this expenditure by taxpayers, is due to the failure by the landlord to properly maintain the building. In these instances, the landlord must be held accountable to the tenants and to the taxpayers. That is what this legislation is all about – and that is why it has long been one of my highest legislative priorities. Again I sincerely thank Councilmember Nadeau, and I urge its swift consideration and passage by the Council.”

“Ensuring that all District residents are able to live in safe, affordable, habitable housing is a priority for us at the Office of Attorney General, and we are proud to have partnered with Councilmember Nadeau and our friends at the Office of Tenant Advocate and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs on this bill,” said Attorney General Karl A. Racine. “Thanks to Councilmember Nadeau’s leadership, OTA will have greater authority to protect and house tenants in dire need, and OAG will have greater ability to assist them in doing so.  Our attorneys and staff stand ready to pursue slumlords and negligent building owners to recover the funds OTA needs to house displaced tenants.”

Current funding levels for temporary relocation assistance are insufficient to meet the need, which means either OTA can offer assistance in a limited number of cases, or must stop offering assistance every year at the point funds run out. The bill would hold landlords responsible for the cost in cases where the landlord is at fault or negligent, which will free up funding for other temporary relocation assistance when the landlord is not at fault, such as natural disasters.

A copy of the Relocation Expenses Recoupment and Lien Authority Amendment Act of 2016 as introduced is below.

About Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau

In her many years of service to the community, Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) has brought perspectives from a career that spans the non-profit, public and private sectors. She is committed to strengthening our schools, increasing affordable housing and promoting government transparency and the highest ethical standards. Prior to joining the Council, she was a strategic advisor to faith-based, Democratic and environmental non-profits, and is a former ANC. Follow her on Twitter @brianneknadeau or at Facebook.com/brianneknadeau.