In the nation’s capital, as in many places across the country, tensions are high, aggression is on the rise, and much of the population is still largely confined to home. This past spring, the District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® noted with alarm that dangerous incidents in rental properties were being reported, but housing providers, many of them small mom-and-pop operations, were powerless to evict the perpetrators because of an especially strict eviction moratorium in place during the public health crisis. Working with two other like-minded organizations, DCAR helped the Housing Committee of the DC City Council to craft a Public Safety Emergency Amendment to allow for the removal of clear and present dangers from rental housing. A timely Call For Action demonstrated strong public support in advance of the vote.
Evan Loukadakis, DCAR’s Associate Government Affairs Director, explains that the District’s eviction moratorium, implemented in response to the public health emergency, is arguably the strictest in the country, and that while the REALTORS® sympathize with those facing economic difficulties in these troubled times, they have an obligation to protect at-risk property owners, tenants, and the surrounding communities. “We’d been hearing awful stories from our members and throughout the local housing industry, stories that were investigated and covered by local and national news media: a property manager was beaten and thrown down a stairwell; a young woman was spat on; a tenant set fire to his unit, endangering all his neighbors. It goes on and on.” But, during the public health emergency, he says, housing providers were prevented from removing any tenants, even those who posed serious health and safety risks to others. “We had to do something.”
DCAR’s focus, says Loukadakis, was on the small housing providers who have no resources to advocate for themselves, and whose units are integral to the city’s affordable housing landscape. The REALTORS® were joined in the effort by the Small Multifamily Owners Association and the Apartment and Office Building Association. Working with the Chair of the City Council and the Housing Committee, they influenced language for the Eviction Moratorium Public Safety Exception Emergency Amendment Act of 2021, which provides housing providers with access to the courts to remove tenants who pose a serious health and safety threat to on-site personnel and fellow tenants. “The benefit of this legislation was not just for the property owners, but for entire communities of neighbors and rental personnel who are at risk from reckless and dangerous individuals,” says Loukadakis, noting that such a reasonable measure would be a given in ‘normal times,’ but it had been swept away by the city’s comprehensive reaction to the public health crisis.
To show support for the Emergency Amendment, DCAR put out at Call For Action to its 3,000 members, targeting members of the Housing Committee and a few likely swing voters on the rest of the City Council. “The REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program is great,” says Loukadakis, of the effort that netted a response of about 100 calls and emails in a very short window of opportunity. In the end, he reports, the amendment passed with a vote of 12-1. “We’re more than comfortable with this margin of victory. 12 out of 13 votes demonstrates that we effectively made our case,” he says. “More importantly, the REALTORS® and their allies have increased the level of public safety in rental buildings and communities throughout Washington, DC.”
To learn more about how the District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® is protecting mom-and-pop housing providers, their tenants, and their communities, contact Associate Government Affairs Director Evan Loukadakis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 318.305.4607.