One D.C. department has housing violation authority but claims it does not have expertise to conduct mold inspections. Another agency has the expertise but no enforcement authority.
So, a member of the District’s council now wants to know how this is being reconciled amid ongoing issues at Howard University dorms.
At-Large Council Member Christina Henderson in a letter said she wants an update on pending regulations that would give the Department of Energy and Environment, or DOEE, authority over mold remediation enforcement and fines.
Henderson said residents reached out to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for help over concerns with mold in Howard University dorms. The DCRA told them that issues with mold and air quality — and fixing them — were the responsibility of the property owner, and that “DCRA inspectors do not cite violations for mold.” The residents were then referred to the DOEE, Henderson’s letter to DOEE Director Tommy Wells said.
Today, I sent a letter to Director Tommy Wells of @DOEE_DC sharing my deep concern with mold violations in the District.
— CM Christina Henderson (@CMCHenderson) November 30, 2021
Henderson said that since Feb. 22, DOEE has been finalizing regulations that would establish a fine schedule for mold violations and give the DOEE’s home inspectors mold-enforcement abilities. She wants an update of the legal review of these rules, as well as a timeline of when they would be published and implemented.
According to Henderson, the DOEE reported 380 mold-related complaints in 2020 — the most-frequent type of complaint last year — but the department only has one inspector for mold issues. Meanwhile, there were 65 complaints for lead paint, and six are deployed to asses this risk.
Henderson is also asking for information on mold complaints received and resolved in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 to date.
DOEE said that it has received Henderson’s letter, and that it is being reviewed internally.
Since October, students at Howard University have been protesting over housing conditions and a lack of representation on the school’s board of trustees. Among the concerns raised were conditions at student housing buildings, which some said included mold and rodents.
The university has responded with a policy of “hyper care” in regard to the health and cleanliness of student housing.