Your decision to move off campus marks a major milestone in your college experience and in your life. For many of you, this is the first time you have faced the responsibility of living on your own. The Office of the Dean of Students wishes you the best during this transition and hopes this will be a positive growing experience for you.
We would also like to remind you that, even though you are not living on campus, you still represent The Catholic University of America in the community. We would like to encourage you to be a good neighbor to those around you and take advantage of opportunities to get involved. Get to know your neighbors, attend local community meetings, and remain engaged in what the local life has to offer in the D.C. metropolitan region.
No matter where you call “home,” you are still an integral part of the University family. The faculty, staff, and administration want to see you become successful, responsible, and engaged citizens no matter where you go. If you need any support or assistance, please contact the Office of the Dean of Students at (202) 319-5619 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Off-Campus Living Considerations
About Living Off-Campus
If you are no longer under the residency requirement set by the University, you can choose to live off campus. If you have questions regarding the on-campus residency requirement, please contact the Office of Housing Services at (202) 319-5615 or email@example.com.
It is important to remember that while living off campus grants you a certain freedom, it also comes with responsibility. Living in D.C. means abiding by all local laws of the District, as well as any rules the community you have moved into may have. This guide will help you navigate the new set of living expectations off-campus housing provides, and connect you to resources you may need as a local resident.
Preparing Your Finances and Paying BillsMoving into an off-campus residence can be a significant financial commitment; it is important you take the time to understand this commitment, as well as your own financial situation, as thoroughly as possible. When considering the financial aspects of moving off campus, note all the expenses you will be responsible for handling. Some expenses, such as cable and rent, will most likely remain constant throughout the terms of your lease, while others, such as water, power, and other utilities, will vary with usage. You can use these expenses, known as variable expenses, to achieve some extra and unexpected savings on occasion. Work with your roommates to maximize these savings and practice responsible environmental stewardship.
Searching For Your Off-Campus HomeSearching for a rental property can seem like a daunting task. The Office of Housing Services will help guide you through the search process discussing such issues as identifying available properties, selecting roommates, creating a budget, and understanding and negotiating leases. As part of their support Housing Services offers an online housing listing service (https://offcampushousing.catholic.edu/) available to students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Registered users can search for rental or for sale properties and students can search for roommates. We encourage you to contact Housing Services at (202) 319-5615 or firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Landlord Verification of Property and Business Licenses
Only rent from a property manager/landlord that is licensed to manage property in the District of Columbia or other area you are considering. Although property listings through our rental site (https://offcampushousing.cua.edu/) are licensed, you should not assume rental properties listed elsewhere have the appropriate license.
D.C. law requires property owners to obtain a Basic Business License (BBL) from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) in order to legally rent their property. A condition of obtaining a BBL is the property’s satisfactory inspection by the DCRA for basic life safety requirements, such as egress, electrical systems, smoke detectors, and so forth. The checklist used for this inspection can be found here: https://dcra.dc.gov/publication/housing-inspection-checklist. If anything in your rental property does not meet these standards, you should contact the landlord for repairs.
To check if your landlord has a BBL to legally rent the property, proceed with the following steps:
- Go to the D.C. Property Information Verification System site located at https://pivs.dcra.dc.gov.
- Enter the rental property’s address.
- Towards the bottom of the page, in the left-hand menu select "Basic Business Licenses" from the dropdown menu.
You may also find it helpful to view a printer-friendly report on this prospective rental property to see additional information such as the legal amount of bedrooms and bathrooms, recent commercial inspections, and any issued permits for work on the property.
There are different types of BBLs for single family homes, apartment buildings, and rooming houses. D.C. law defines a family as “one or more persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption, or not more than six persons who are not so related…living together as a single house-keeping unit, using certain rooms and housekeeping facilities in common.” Therefore, if your roommate group is seven or more, your landlord cannot legally rent a property with a single-family BBL to your group.
Confirming the required BBL has been issued is a significant step to complete because if your property manager is caught operating without the license the result could be assessment of significant fines to the landlord and disruption to the circumstances under which you live. If your landlord is caught without a BBL and your property fails the subsequent safety inspection, you may be evicted through no fault of your own. For more information regarding the DCRA, see the Local Resources section later in this guide.
Understanding Your Lease
Your lease is the contract between you, your roommates, and your landlord; its terms and permissions will dictate your relationship with your landlord and your leasing experience. It should explicitly delineate the different responsibilities that you and your landlord will have in taking care of the property you are renting. For this reason, it is extremely important you and your roommates take the time to carefully examine the entire lease, pausing to ask questions about any terms that seem unclear or contrary to your impressions. What pieces of information should you be looking for? The following list should give you a good idea:
- Questions about Rent: When is your rent due? Is there a grace period for that deadline and what are the late fees if you miss the deadline? To whom do you send the rent and what methods of payment are accepted?
- Questions about Maintenance: Whose job is it to mow the grass, keep the weeds at a minimum, rake the leaves, and keep the sidewalks and steps clear of snow and ice? What is the process for submitting maintenance requests and how quickly are those requests handled? What structural or aesthetic modifications are you permitted to make to your rental property? What is the fee for those modifications and are you expected to return the apartment to pre-lease conditions upon move-out?
- Other General Questions: Where can you obtain another key should you lose yours or lock yourself out of your apartment and is there a fee for a replacement key? What type of notice is required if the landlord accesses your apartment when you are not present?
These are just a few of the questions you will want answered before you sign your lease. Remember, until you physically sign the lease document, you are under no obligation to follow through with the terms of the contract; if you are not comfortable with the terms of the leasing agreement, you can walk away without fear of penalty. It is important to also remember what is required on behalf of your property manager in order for you to live in the space you are leasing, such as possessing a current BBL. The earlier section on Landlord Verification of Property and Business Licenses has more information on what the BBL entails.
Most property managers/landlords in the District require a security deposit from each residential unit. This deposit is held in trust by the property manager and is a hedge against any damages that might occur to the rental unit. D.C. law requires the entire deposit be returned to the payee (plus interest if the deposit was kept for longer than 12 months), unless the property manager intends to assess damages against the renters. In that case, D.C. law requires the renters be informed in writing of the damages assessed against them.
If you find yourself involved with a property manager/landlord who has misappropriated your security deposit, do not hesitate to contact the D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) for assistance. More information regarding the OTA and support they provide is in the Local Resources section later in this guide.
Renter's InsuranceWe strongly recommend all students renting property purchase renter’s insurance. Your landlord’s policy does not cover any of your belongings. You must purchase renter’s insurance to cover losses if any of your possessions (such as your laptop, other electronics, clothes, or furniture) are lost due to theft or destruction. Basic renter’s insurance often includes protection for you in case someone is hurt in your home. Ask your insurance company, as policies and coverage differ. Check with your parents to find out if you are covered under their insurance policy. Students are typically covered under their parents’ policy when living in on-campus housing, but not covered when renting off campus in a privately owned property. Renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive, considering the protection it provides for you. Most insurance providers offer free quotes for renter’s insurance online.
D.C. Housing CodeThe District of Columbia Housing Code contains the standards by which residential housing must be maintained. The regulations pertaining to the housing code are contained in Title 14 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations. The Housing Regulation Administration is responsible for administration and enforcement of the code. For assistance regarding the D.C. Housing Code, please contact the Housing Inspection Section of the Housing Regulation Administration at DCRA at (202) 442-4400.
Living in Your New Home
Updating Local Address Information in Cardinal StationIt is University policy that all students must provide the University with their current local mailing address and a cell phone number so that University officials can contact you in the case of a local and/or campus emergency or an issue involving the residents of your house/apartment. It is also important to provide the University with the name, email address, and telephone number of your emergency contact. All of this information can be updated through your Cardinal Station account.
Maintaining Good Relationships
With Your Property Manager/Landlord
Your relationship with your landlord will have a significant impact on your living experience. It is important that you feel comfortable with your landlord or leasing agent, that you trust them to access your residence only when necessary, and to safeguard your personal and financial information.
Before signing any contracts or making any payments, be sure you know exactly who your landlord or leasing agent is and how to get in touch with that person in the event of serious issues. Be clear about the terms of your contract and, if something is not clear, seek clarification from the landlord and receive that clarification in writing.
Once you have signed a lease, be sure you receive a copy in print. Remember: Each signatory to a lease is legally liable for any and all charges and damages; landlords are legally able to hold accountable any resident whose name is on a lease. Rental rates in the District are determined by offices within the D.C. City Council and are governed by local legislation. This legislation requires rent increases meet several criteria, which depends on whether the property is rent controlled or exempt. More specific information on rent increases in D.C. is available from the Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA); their contact information is in the Local Resources section later in this guide.
With Your Neighbors
The University strives to develop and maintain a strong relationship with the community in the D.C. metropolitan area and in the Brookland neighborhood in particular. As students, you are a vital part of that effort and we expect you to be good citizens and abide by the expectations outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.Here are some suggestions for how you can extend the University’s community into your neighborhood:
- Communicate with and get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood. Good relations and friendliness will go a long way. Being a good neighbor starts by saying hello; if there is a problem in the future, it is easier to discuss it with someone who already knows you.
- Attend neighborhood meetings and other community events. This will deepen and broaden your connection to the community.
- Be considerate of both your neighbors and others; making too much noise is both a nuisance and against D.C. law. Having parties, especially those that get out of hand, can also cause friction between you and your neighbors.
- Make sure your property is well kept. This shows your neighbors you care about the neighborhood. Maintaining your property involves everything from mowing the lawn to shoveling snow to taking out your trash. Find out your community’s garbage and recycling policies and schedule and follow them accordingly.
- Respect your community’s parking policies and standards. Parking is a rarity in the District and it is important available spots be shared among all residents.
- If you observe suspicious activity in your neighborhood, report it to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) by calling 911. If you are helpful in keeping your neighbors’ property safe, they will do the same for you.
- Offer assistance to your neighbors and your community wherever possible. They will appreciate the gesture!
What is a “Good Neighbor”?
As members of the Brookland community, the University and its students have a responsibility to act as good neighbors, guided by common interest and goodwill. A good neighbor improves the quality of their neighborhood and increases the values of their property and those surrounding them. A good neighbor ensures that trash does not litter their lawn and surrounding property, that no excessive noise is generated from their parties, and that their property is well kept and aesthetically pleasing. It is your responsibility to be a good neighbor and to comply with all expectations expressed by the University and the District.
Parking in the DistrictThere are two aspects to parking in the District and it is important to know which applies to you. Residency parking restrictions apply solely to District residents and permit them to park their vehicles in specially designated areas. If you qualify for reciprocity and you live on a street zoned for residential parking, you may obtain a Residential Parking Permit for your vehicle for a fee. Reciprocal parking restrictions grant students capacity to park in the same parking areas as District residents for one calendar year and are renewable. Students who choose to bring cars are required to comply with D.C. law regarding the vehicle’s registration and maintenance. D.C. law requires all vehicles housed and operated in the District of Columbia be registered in the District within 30 days of the date the vehicle arrives in the District. Information about the registration process and the Residential Parking Permit can be found at the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles website at https://dmv.dc.gov/.
Behavioral Expectations of Off-Campus Students
Catholic University students living off campus and/or visiting the surrounding neighborhoods have a responsibility to the local neighbors, the University, and the District of Columbia to be mindful of their behavior and that of their guests and/or housemates, and its effects upon the community.
Students are encouraged to take advantage of the positive and rewarding aspects of the University while simultaneously practicing responsible citizenship and conducting themselves in a manner that is compatible with the expectations of them as adult citizens and members of the community. Loud music, large parties, being disruptive when traveling to and from campus, littering, or not maintaining an off-campus property properly might seem trivial to students. However, what might seem inconsequential is very disruptive to neighbors and other community members. It is incumbent upon students to respect the standards of the extended community.
When living in or visiting the local neighborhoods, students represent the University to people who form an impression of based on the students’ behavior. Understanding who the neighbors are (e.g. professionals, retirees, families with young children, and/or long-term residents of the community) might help students recognize how their behavior(s) may be perceived and the positive (or negative) impact they can have on community members’ impression of students. Each year the neighbors must adjust to a new group of students living in the neighborhood with them; the negative actions of just one group of students can have a lasting impact on the community as a whole.
Disciplined Property Status
Expectations of students do not change once they leave the physical boundaries of the campus. Even when off campus, students can be held accountable for their actions — the Code of Student Conduct applies to all students, whether they are on or off campus. Student behavior shall be consistent with the published Code of Student Conduct, laws and regulations, and “Expectations of a CUA Student.” The University reserves the right to take appropriate action to protect the health and well-being of an individual and/or the University community, including pursuing disciplinary action for any violation of University policy or district or federal law off University premises by a student that affects the University’s interests and/or is inconsistent with the University’s expectations of students.
In addition, when off campus, students are members of the District of Columbia community and will be held to certain standards, just like other community members. The Metropolitan Police Department has jurisdiction to respond to incidents occurring off-campus residence if they receive complaints from neighbors and other community members about students’ behavior. The University, after learning of complaints, may take action as necessary.
The University, through its existing jurisdiction stated in the Code of Student Conduct, may take administrative action and/or institute disciplinary action if neighborhood properties are the location of an event that, based on credible evidence and the University’s determination, has disrupted the neighborhood. In addition to sanctions against individual students, the University may designate a neighborhood property as a disciplined property (DP). Upon designation as a DP, all student tenants living in the property are subject to immediate disciplinary action by the University for any behaviors deemed to be disruptive to the community. In general, the designation of DP on a neighborhood property will remain for a minimum period of four academic months and may be removed upon approved petition from the tenants or the landlord to the Vice President of Student Affairs or his/her designee. However, a designation of DP may extend into future academic years, meaning that new tenants of the property will be under the same behavioral stipulations as prior tenants.
Hosting Guests and Social GatheringsOnce you have moved in, there will be times when you want to invite some friends over. Regardless of the occasion, your goal as a new resident in the neighborhood is to be mindful of the activity coming from your residence, as well as the number of people you decide to invite over. Therefore, it is very important you keep the lines of communication with your neighbor(s) open. If you decide to have friends over for a specific occasion, the best practice would be to inform your neighbors ahead of time. When you speak with them directly you are able to understand how your gathering may impact them, which will allow you to govern yourself and your guests accordingly. It is also important to understand that if concerning behavior occurs in your residence, you will be held liable.
Laws in D.C. Related to Alcohol and Disorderly Conduct
Below is a sampling of D.C. laws related to alcohol and disorderly conduct that should be considered when hosting a social gathering. It is only a summary of the laws and holds no legal statue.
Consume Alcohol Legally and in Moderation
- It is illegal for anyone under 21 to consume or possess alcohol. Even if underage attendees are instructed to “Bring Your Own Alcohol,” this will not absolve hosts of the party from responsibility. It is unlawful to allow minors to drink on your property, even if you did not provide the alcohol.
- If police have a reason to suspect alcohol is being sold to or consumed by minors, they can disperse your party and arrest those hosting the gathering.
- Keep the alcohol inside the house where you can manage the actions of your guests. If there is any alcohol outside of your property, individuals may be held responsible for a violation of D.C.’s open container law. Possession of an open container in public is an arrestable offense, punishable by a fine and/or time in jail.
- Responsible and moderate consumption is considered drinking one alcoholic beverage or less per hour. One drink equals one 12 oz. of beer, or one 5 oz. glass of wine, or one 1.5 oz. shot of 80-proof liquor.
- Avoid letting others handle your drink and do not leave it unattended.
- Responsible hosts provide nonalcoholic beverages and food. Food, particularly that which is protein based, will slow down the absorption of alcohol into the blood stream. Refrain from drinking on an empty stomach.
- Avoid playing drinking games that encourage your guests or yourself to
consume unsafe amounts of alcohol. Don’t give guests more alcohol when it is obvious they have had enough.
- Provide garbage and recycle bins, and remind guests to leave alcohol containers inside.
Purchase Alcohol Legally
In the District of Columbia, penalties for using false identification to purchase alcoholic beverages include fines and the suspension of driving privileges in the District.
D.C.’s law on disorderly conduct covers a variety of behaviors. These laws are designed to keep communities safe and enjoyable. In order to avoid encounters with your unhappy neighbors or the Metropolitan Police Department, you should familiarize yourself with these laws, especially if you plan to host parties or gatherings. The punishment for disorderly conduct is jail time and/or a fine.
Talk to your neighbors before the party, including those that live behind you. Give them your phone number so they can call or text if they are being disturbed. The most common reason police come to a party is complaints from neighbors. Let your neighbors know when the party will end. Remember, parties may bother people who live on a different time schedule, including those who are elderly or have small children. Out of courtesy for your neighbors, keep the party indoors with windows, blinds, and drapes closed. Loud music can penetrate most walls so keep the bass down as well and consider adding soft items in your gathering spaces to help absorb noise (rugs, pillows, wall hangings, etc.).
Loud social events in your home or making excessive noise in the streets can lead to serious consequences. The relevant law reads: “It is unlawful for a person to make an unreasonably loud noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that is likely to annoy or disturb one or more other persons in their residences.” The noise control ordinance applies not only to loud music but also to screaming and yelling, banging, and other loud noises. You may find it helpful to add soft surfaces (rugs, wall hangings, pillows, drapes) to your décor to assist with controlling noise levels inside, especially if you share a wall with a neighbor. As a general standard, if the noise inside the house can be heard from the street it is too loud.
While living off campus, students and their guests are expected to act appropriately and politely to each other and to those they encounter. D.C.’s Disorderly Conduct law includes the following:
- No person may be intoxicated and endanger the safety of oneself, others, or of private or public property.
- No person may direct abusive or offensive language or gestures at another person in a manner likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation or violence.
- Lewd, indecent, or obscene acts are illegal in public as is public urination.
Ways to Responsibly Manage Gatherings
Utilize the Good Samaritan/Medical Amnesty Program
The health and safety of each student is a priority for The Catholic University of America community. All members are called to offer help and assistance to others in need. The Office of the Dean of Students recognizes the potential for disciplinary action could unnecessarily deter students from seeking assistance for themselves and/or others in cases of alcohol or other drug-related emergencies. Therefore, the Good Samaritan/Medical Amnesty Program has been designed to remove this barrier that might prevent students from seeking medical attention.
Through the program, students who actively seek assistance for another person in need of medical attention (Good Samaritan) or students who actively seek assistance for themselves (Medical Amnesty) will be exempt from the University Student Conduct process, as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct. Instead, these situations will be addressed as a health and safety concern.
In order to be considered for this program, students are expected to:
- Contact emergency officials:
»»For an off-campus incident, dial 911.
»»For an on-campus incident, contact the Department of Public Safety at (202) 319-5111 or a Residence Life staff member.
- Remain with the individual(s) needing treatment as long as it is safe to do so.
- Meet with a staff member in the Office of the Dean of Students following the incident.
- Agree to and complete educational and/or health interventions as a condition of deferring student conduct sanctions.
Keep the Size Reasonable and Know Your Guests
If the party spills outside, there is an increased chance a complaint will be made. Limit the amount of guests to what your living unit can handle appropriately.
Guests who know and respect you will ensure a more manageable gathering. A friend who feels comfortable monitoring the guests and size of the party may be a helpful tool.
Refrain from hosting an “open” party. This is often how irresponsible partygoers gain access to your party and ruin the event, sometimes causing property damage, theft, etc. If uninvited guests will not leave, call the Metropolitan Police Department.
If the Police or Public Safety Arrive at Your Property
Always speak to them genuinely, with respect and understanding. The police are looking out for the safety of you, your housemates, and the community. They ensure the party is safe and respectful to the community.
Be compliant, polite, and honest when talking to them.
If they tell you to turn down the music, do so. Noise complaints will keep the Metropolitan Police Department coming back.
If they tell you to end the party, do so.
If you need assistance in breaking up a party, call the Metropolitan Police Department (911) or Public Safety (202-319-5111).
- Contact emergency officials:
Responsibility for MaintenanceResponsibility for various types of exterior property maintenance should be stated in your lease agreement. Some landlords provide services such as lawn mowing or snow shoveling while others may provide you with the necessary equipment to do it yourself. Still other landlords may simply state it is the tenant’s responsibility to both perform these basic property maintenance tasks as well as to provide any needed equipment to do so. Most landlords will require you to manage your own trash/recycling appropriately. Read your lease carefully to understand your responsibility regarding property maintenance areas listed below. Be sure to call your landlord if you are still unclear of your responsibilities.
Grass and Weeds
District regulations prohibit residents from allowing grass on their premises to grow more than 8 inches in height. In addition, several types of excessive vegetative growth including weeds, grasses, kudzu, poison ivy, oak, sumac, plants with obnoxious odors, and any others causing hay fever are regulated by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). Regulations require that these weeds be cut after no more than seven days of growth. Failing to adhere to the law could lead to fines.
What is the reason for this regulation? Tall weeds and grass detract from the appearance of District neighborhoods. Undesirable wildlife like rats, mice, snakes, and mosquitoes seek tall grass and weeds for hiding places to habitat — and these animals can carry diseases. Additionally, neglected grass can appear to passersby that no one cares about the property, which may invite criminal activity. Excessive vegetative growth can cause serious public health implications.
Failure to comply with a Notice of Violation during the growing season may result in DCRA cleaning the property and billing the owner for cost of the cleanup. The city urges residents to report suspected violations of this code to DCRA at email@example.com.
Leaf and Christmas Tree Collection
The fall leaf collection program runs from the first week of November through the second week of January. Collecting leaves reduces potential accidents and injuries caused by slipping on wet leaves, and prevents catch basins (storm drains) from clogging and causing street flooding during heavy rains. The Department of Public Works (DPW) will collect leaves at least twice from each residential neighborhood by “vacuuming” loose leaves residents rake into their treebox(es); specific information is on their website. Loose leaves will be sent for composting. In neighborhoods with alley trash/recycling collections, bagged leaves may be placed where trash and recycling are collected. These leaves will be collected with the trash as space in the truck permits. If you are bagging your leaves, please use paper bags.
Christmas trees and greenery will be collected from the curb in front of your home through late January and will be composted (see DPW website for specific date). Trees and greenery collected after the published date will be collected with the trash as space permits in the truck. Please remove ornaments, tinsel, and other decorations and put the tree(s) and greenery where your trash and recycling are collected. See the Local Resources section later in this guide for information on contacting the DPW.
Snow and Ice Removal
Uncleared sidewalks pose a danger and can be life threatening to pedestrians. When the sidewalks are not clear of snow or ice pedestrians may injure themselves on the sidewalk or be forced to walk in the roadway with vehicular traffic. District law requires property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks and handicap curb ramps abutting their property within the first 8 daylight hours after snow, sleet, or ice stops falling. Residents are also asked to clear snow from catch basins and storm drains to prevent flooding during snow melt. Note that wheelchairs need 36” of sidewalk in order to move. Please make sure you shovel safely. Snow is very heavy, especially when wet. Individuals with health problems should err on the side of caution and delegate the task to someone else. If you have neighbors who are elderly or have disabilities, it is thoughtful to make sure they have assistance with clearing their walks; this is a great way to build good relationships with your neighbors.
If ice cannot be fully cleared, spread ice melt, sand, or kitty litter on the sidewalk to increase safety for pedestrians.
Trash and Recycling Maintenance
In D.C. the Department of Public Works (DPW) collects trash from single-family homes and apartment buildings with three or fewer living units. Once-a-week trash collections occur in Ward 5 (which includes the Brookland neighborhood); schedules for other wards are available on the DPW website. It is important to be aware of your trash collection schedule because if you miss a week your trash will accumulate and by the next trash collection day may be foul-smelling, especially in hot weather. Moreover, when you discard trash improperly, or allow litter to accumulate on your lawn, you can be subject to sanitation tickets. To determine your neighborhood trash collection day, please visit http://collectionday.dcgis.dc.gov/.
- To avoid sanitation tickets, place trash and recycling containers out for collection no earlier than 6:30 p.m. the night before collection and no later than 6 a.m. on your collection day. Residents are required to remove trash and recycling containers from public space by 8 p.m. on your collection day.
- When a holiday falls on a trash and recycling collection day, collections will “slide” to the next day for the rest of the week after the holiday. For example, if the holiday falls on a Monday, DPW will collect Monday routes on Tuesday and so on through Saturday.
- Keep the public space around your property free of litter.
- Between collections, store trash and recycling containers on your property rather than in the alley or on the sidewalk. Otherwise, you may receive a solid waste ticket.
- Paint your address on your trash and recycling containers and record the number that appears on these containers to help prevent theft or loss.
- When you move in you might find that you are in need of appropriate trash or recycling containers. You can order new or repair existing containers by calling 311 or using https://311.dc.gov/.
LitterLittering includes depositing, throwing, or placing any solid matter into a street, sidewalk, gutter, alley, or other public space. Each day serves as a separate offense. If you have a party, you must clean up your surrounding area including discarded items from your gathering that are left in the surrounding neighborhood. We have received complaints in the past of “litter trails” leading from an off-campus property back to campus. Littering offenses in D.C. are subject to fines and/or imprisonment.
Bulk TrashSingle-family homes and apartments with fewer than three units can request bulk item trash pickup by calling 311. Bulk items are picked up at the same place you set out your regular trash. Up to seven items may be picked up at once. Without an appointment, bulk items may be dropped off at the Ft. Totten Transfer Station, 4900 John F. McCormack Drive, N.E. Lists of acceptable and unacceptable bulk items may be found on the DPW website. See the Local Resources section later in this guide for more DPW information.
Street and Alley CleaningDPW cleans residential and arterial streets using mechanical sweepers of various sizes. Between March 1 and October 31, sweepers operate along residential streets where signs are posted restricting parking during street sweeping hours. A fine may be issued for violating sweeping hours.
Blocking Streets or AlleysThe blocking of alleys or streets could directly hinder the ability of emergency responders to help the public. It is illegal for a person to crowd, obstruct, or hinder the use of any street, avenue, alley, road, highway, or sidewalk, or the entrance of any public or private building. Offenses are subject to fines and/or imprisonment.
How You Can Help
- Pick up the litter and trash in your alley and around your property, rather than sweeping these items into the gutter to make their way to one of the District’s rivers.
- Residents are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks and tree box spaces around their property.
- Use the street litter and recycling cans as you walk along the District’s commercial streets. The litter cans are for pedestrian trash only, not household trash.
- Avoid a street sweeping ticket by obeying the parking (No Parking Street Cleaning) signs along residential streets. Eighty percent of the residents of these streets signed petitions pledging to move their cars so sweeping would be effective.
- Overnight scheduled sweeping of the District’s major roadways occurs year-round, weather permitting. Motorists are urged to obey the signs when parking in these areas during the posted overnight sweeping hours.
- To obtain street and alley cleaning services, contact DC 311.
Safety and Security: Your Personal Plan
Personal safety is of constant importance; follow these tips and understand the environment around you to ensure you and your property remain safe:
- Develop the habit of carrying a form of personal identification with you at all times such as your driver’s license or Cardinal Card.
- To minimize the likelihood your residence becomes a target of theft, keep high-value items, such as TVs, gaming systems, and computing devices away from the line of sight created by doors and windows.
- When you leave your residence, be sure all doors and windows are closed and locked and your belongings within your home are secured. Remember: unless you own the property, someone else has an additional key to your residence.
- When approached by maintenance personnel, ask for identification and for them to remain outside while you confirm the information they provided. Never be embarrassed or hesitant to seek confirmation from the landlord or company’s office.
- Stay alert, confident, and aware of your surroundings. Walk purposefully and make eye contact with people around you. Trust your instincts.
- Avoid alleys, short cuts, and vacant lots. Stick to well-lighted, busy streets.
- Walk with a companion whenever possible.
- Avoid displaying large amounts of cash. Use ATMs during daylight hours only.
- If you are being followed, abruptly change directions, stay in a well-lit area and seek safety in a public building.
- Make noise, attract attention to yourself and the person that is following you.
It is important for students to be safe at all times. Many times, precautionary work can prevent hardship. Please take time and reflect on the following ideas on how to stay safe off campus:
- More than half of all burglaries occur through a door or window. Many times this is because they were left unlocked or open. Make sure all your doors are locked at all times. When looking at rental units, look at what kind of doors are used. Are they steel or solid wood doors which would provide adequate protection?
- Outside doors are the most important. Make sure each door is secure, well lit, and fitted with a deadbolt lock.
- A key-in-knob spring bolt lock offers you very little protection because it can be easily opened with a knife or credit card. Take extra precautionary steps with such outside doors and have your landlord install additional locks. A deadbolt lock is the most efficient and cost-effective lock available.
- All windows should be able to close and lock securely. This includes windows on the second floor of homes and apartments. The most vulnerable type of window is the double-hung window (when one or both panels will slide up). Your landlord should be able to take care of these safety issues regarding windows with you.
- Many times, if the window will not be opened on a regular basis, a nail, screw, or “catch” can be used to securely fasten a window in place. This provides an extra lock.
- Most important, watch how you use the windows. Many homes do not have air conditioning and thus open windows are necessary in the summer months. However, it is important these windows are closed and locked during the day when no one is home and at night when you are sleeping. If windows have individual air-conditioners, be sure to secure the window so it cannot be raised and the unit removed.
- Work with your landlord to ensure smoke detectors are present and in working order. Batteries in battery-operated alarms should be changed twice a year when daylight savings time changes.
- Maintain a charged fire extinguisher in your kitchen and other appropriate areas.
- Avoid overloading the electrical outlets.
- Exercise caution around gas stoves, open flames, and fireplaces. Clean grease off the stove regularly.
- Do not leave items of value visible in a parked car.
- Park in well-lighted areas designated for parking.
- Look into and around your vehicle before entering it.
- Drive on well-traveled streets.
- Keep all doors locked.
Tips on Keeping Your Place Safe While in Residence
- Secure all valuables (i.e., jewelry, money, credit cards, computers, televisions, other electronics, etc.). Do not leave your valuables in plain view.
- Close and lock all windows at night or when you are leaving.
- NEVER leave your exterior doors unlocked. Even when you are home you should lock all doors, windows, and other entryways.
- Make sure all exterior lighting works properly. Exterior lights should be placed above or near exterior doors and be on a timer or photoelectric cell. Contact your landlord about securing such devices.
- If you arrive at home and your residence has been broken into, do not enter. Call 911 immediately from a cell phone or neighbor’s phone. Afterwards, contact the Department of Public Safety at (202) 319-5111.
Tips on Keeping Your Place Safe While You are Away
- With neighbors you trust, inform them of your extended absence. This will allow neighbors to watch over your home while you are gone.
- Leave appropriate lighting on throughout your absence.
- Lock all doors and windows prior to leaving.
- Lock all rooms within the house while gone.
- Lower all blinds on the ground level floors to protect the house from outside viewing.
- Take all easily portable valuables (i.e., money, jewelry, computers, iPods, etc.) with you to your destination.
- Invest in an automatic timer for your indoor and outdoor lights. Set it to your daily routine.
- Stop all mail delivery for the duration of your absence or have a neighbor retrieve it.
- Make arrangements for snow/ice removal during the winter season if all roommates are away for an extended period of time (such as Christmas Break).
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA)
The mission of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is to protect the health, safety, economic interests and quality of life of residents, businesses, and visitors in the District of Columbia by ensuring code compliance (including housing codes such as maximum grass height) and regulating business. Since a Basic Business License (BBL) is needed in order to legally rent a house, your landlord should be familiar with the DCRA. For more information on BBLs see the Landlord Verification of Property and Business Licenses section earlier in this guide.
Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA)
The Office of the Tenant Advocate advises tenants on resolving disputes with landlords, identifies legal issues and the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and provides legal and technical assistance for further action such as filing tenant petitions.
The OTA has an office in Northwest D.C. that you can call or visit for help. They also have an online “Live Q&A with the OTA” service, as well as a question form that may be submitted at their website.
OTA provides in-house representation for tenants in certain cases, and refers other cases to pro bono or contracted legal service providers and attorneys. The Legal Division provides advising on legal rights, representation, tenant petition filing, mediation and dispute resolution, and a tenant hotline.
They also offer educational seminars, workshops, and online materials. Topics include Tenant Rights 101, Tenant Associations: Building Community through Empowerment, and Lease 101.
Department of Public Works (DPW)
The DPW provides municipal sanitation services such as trash and recycling pickup, as well as seasonal services like leaf and snow removal. Parking enforcement and vehicle management (such as parking permits for residential wards) are also under DPW’s purview. From their website, you can view the trash pickup schedule for your area, request graffiti removal, and pay parking tickets.
DC 311 is a service you can use to request information or assistance from D.C. city services. The service center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Businesses, residents, and visitors can contact 311 to report a missed scheduled service such as trash collection, report public maintenance issues including street lights that are burnt out or sidewalks that are damaged, inquire about city agency phone numbers and hours of operation, and pursue other customer service-related items.
There are three ways to make contact. You can dial 311 from your phone. You can visit the online portal for the information line at https://311.dc.gov/. From that website, you can place a request for services, check the status of submitted requests, and find other 311 resources. There is also an app for iOS and Android available for free on the iTunes and Google Play stores.
The Maryland Attorney General offers tenants a guide to their rights and relevant laws through the consumer protection division. The information can be found at http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/CPD/landlords.aspx
Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI) is a statewide service that offers counseling to both landlords and tenants on their rights. As well as having online resources at http://bni-maryland.org/, they have a phone line open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — call (410) 243-6007.
Virginia ResourcesThe Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) offers resources to educate renters about their rights and responsibilities. As well as offering legal education, they have a Frequently Asked Questions section of their website, and offer tools and help for finding a place to rent. This information can be found at http://www.vhda.com, or you can call (804) 782-1986.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs)For residents in the District, the D.C. City Council has established Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs). ANCs are non-partisan, neighborhood bodies comprised of locally elected representatives. They offer residents a venue for discussing issues of communal concern and serve as their neighborhood’s official voice in advising the District government on issues affecting their neighborhood. ANCs are an excellent opportunity for you and your roommates to become involved in your neighborhood and meet your neighbors.
Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA)The Brookland Civic Association (BNCA) aims to provide a forum for considering and advancing the interests of Brookland residents on issues affecting the community. The board is comprised of all volunteers. They have three areas of focus: advocacy, social events, and beautification (such as tree planting and park expansion).
Meeting Your Neighbors
It is advantageous to build relationship with your neighbors before concerns arise. In a house this will include the homes behind your property. In an apartment it may include those who live above or below you. How you interact with your neighbors will be characterized by the type of residence you choose. A significant majority of apartment complexes offer frequent social events for their residents; attend these events and get to know the people who live near you. You should hope to come to enough of an understanding of your neighbors that you are able to recognize any events or persons that are out of the ordinary and might signal a problem.
If you live in a house or townhome, your interactions with your neighbors will be different from those of apartment dwellers. You may wave or say hello as you unload groceries or mow the lawn. You may even find yourself chatting as you collect your mail. Your neighbors can be a safety asset; if you have a good relationship with your neighbor, you can ask them to “house-sit” for you should you need to be away for an extended period.