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D.C. residents could make money performing city housing inspections under pilot program

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs wants to try something new

A residential building in Northwest D.C.
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If you consider yourself a detail-oriented rules-follower, you could soon earn some cash for it. D.C.’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the agency responsible for overseeing rental housing inspections—among other duties—says it is developing a pilot program in which residents could “become professional inspectors to earn extra income and help the agency keep pace with the demand for approximately 150,000 inspections per year.”

The idea is the brainchild of Acting DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah, who began in the role last fall and previously served as the head of the D.C. Department of For-Hire Vehicles. His appointment by Mayor Muriel Bowser to be DCRA’s permanent director won approval from the D.C. Council recently, and on Tuesday, Chrappah and Bowser will highlight the agency’s new process for rental housing inspections. That process, announced in April, means DCRA can issue to landlords notices of infraction for housing code issues more quickly than before.

Such notices come with potential civil fines, though property owners can appeal them in the District’s administrative court. DCRA said it made the change after examining three years of data on rental housing inspections and concluding that only about 11 percent of cases where a preliminary violation was found had ultimately been resolved. “Our goal is to ensure that tenants know that housing providers will be held accountable for housing code violations; especially repeat offenders,” Chrappah said in a statement when the change was disclosed.

DCRA housing inspectors also now use iPads and a mobile app when doing inspections so they can submit their reports while visiting a property. As for the pilot program involving residents, Chrappah told a D.C. Council committee during a DCRA oversight hearing this past March that the agency could “tap into neighbors who say they want to be part of this revolution” and have them respond to complaints, WAMU reported. But a few lawmakers and housing activists expressed concerns with the proposal over quality control and safety.

Chrappah and Bowser’s demonstration Tuesday is scheduled to take place at an apartment building in Columbia Heights1441 Harvard Street NW—at 11 a.m., according to a release.