DCRA Deems Attic Uninhabitable

The little house on Lebaum St was going well, all things considered.  The elderly brothers were happy and healthy trying to weather the summer hot weather. The basement was empty and dry.  Then there Domanique up in the attic. She had moved from Wade Road to Lebaum when I was out of town trucking.  She had not paid rent and I asked her to leave due to the attic not been habitable.  The ceiling was short and with no central air, the attic was intolerable in the summer.

Meanwhile she was advertising her services online and multiple men were showing up to the door and spending the night with her.  They were walking around the house, like they owned it which was disconcerting to the elderly brothers.

Domanique had stolen property and when she got in a fit of rage, would throw things around.

To protect the house and the safety of everyone living there, we installed cameras outside and in the living room.

Dominque had come down one morning – didn’t like the camera there, removed it from the wall and threw it away –  $190 in value.

Security Camera Thief

Domanique had been my tenant before – at Wade Road.  She was actually the girlfriend of Mike Rhodes, my tenant.  I had won a judgment for her eviction and she had moved up to my attic when I was on the road trucking.

Somewhere Over Wade Road

One day, Manuel was installing shut off valves for the bathroom. He had purchased the wrong valves and had to return to Home Depot.

Domanique was upset that the water was turned off, so she called DCRA.

I was up in NYC picking up my truck when I got a call from a 202 number, hoping it wasn’t robocall.

“This is Inspector Sullivan, duty officer.  You have to turn the water back on immediately.”

“Absolutely, sir. My contractor was just doing some repairs and will have it back on tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, she’s welcome to use the bathroom on the main floor or in the basement.”

We completed the repairs the next day and I updated the inspector.

‘What’s next, sir?”

“Will send an inspector next week to verify that the water is turned back on.”

“Great, will the inspector please call me when he gets there.”


Everything seemed to be going well. I picked up my truck and booked some loads – drove all the way up to Maine and then to the Midwest.  I never got a call – I assumed that everything was fine or DCRA had spoken to Domanique and was happy with her status.

When I finally returned three weeks later, I found a packet in my stack of mail. It was thick document with over a dozen discrepancies from the inspection.   One particular item that stood out was a picture of Domanique measuring the ceiling.  The height of the sloped ceiling was 74 inches to 48 (on the lowest point).  The requirement in DC was 7 foot.


The other item was the dimensions of the windows – all windows in the bedroom needs to be 24 inches wide for egress.

There was one window in the attic that met this requirement, but Domanique had installed an AC unit which would keep her from egressing safely.

Since the inspection was conducted over three weeks earlier, I immediately contacted DCRA for instructions.

Within a couple of days, I got a call from Inspector Gamboa who informed me that we needed to either rectify the issue or move the tenant out.  Since I’m not capable of raising the roof, the other option would be to apply for a waiver.

“Older houses that have short ceilings may be grandfathered,” he said.

I thanked the inspector and told him that I would be standing by for their decision.

Then I got on the road

On Sunday morning, I got a call from Ray: “Domanique is installing a lock to the attic door.”

“She’s not supposed to do that.  And she’s supposed to give me a copy of the key for emergency,” I stated.

Then that evening, I got a call from the inspector – he was on his way.

Wow, didn’t know he was coming back so soon and on a weekend.

He remeasured the ceiling and windows and then called me for the results. The roof had not gotten higher and the windows were not expanded.

Then suddenly a call from Inspector Sullivan.

“The attic is deemed uninhabitable. Your tenant has to move out immediately.”

“Really, tonight? Where will she go?”

“Office of Tenant Advocacy will put her up in a hotel for 2 weeks.  She can have the next couple days to move her stuff out. But she cannot stay there even tonight.”

“Geez, but what if she refuses to leave?”

“She has no choice. We will come and get her if she doesn’t”

Don’t know if Domanique is going to stay or leave. But who would turn down a nice two-week staycation in an area hotel?

Ch 4 – My Night in DC Jail

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