by July 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,953 1 Comment

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]

"For Rent"

Apartments for rent. (Luis Gomez Photos)

It’s funny to think that back in college, I touted myself as a landlord’s “dream tenant.” At the time, it seemed reasonable; I was studious, organized, trustworthy and somewhat punctual with my rent checks. A dream tenant, right? Renting to me should have been an easy decision, right?


While I was much more responsible (read: dorky) than my fellow peers, I still was a college student. And in my senior-year college house, beer was consumed more than water, the shower never saw a squirt of abrasive tile cleaner and an old mattress stayed propped against the side of the house for a few months because I simply didn’t know what else to do with it.

That is why I (now) fully understand why landlords don’t want to rent to students — and I don’t blame them.

But a recent eye-opening column in The Washington Post explains why some landlords are forced to rent apartments to a gang of students and other less-desirable tenants; such as those with no incomes, only trust funds.

As a renter myself, I fully support laws that protect those of us who pay exorbitant amounts of money each month for 600-square-feet of living. However, are the laws imposed on owners too strict and strange to navigate? Should someone who owns an apartment or house have more leeway in DC in getting to choose who will live in, and take care of, that space?

The author of the article, “For rent by owner: Legal landmines for landlords,” Douglas Hsiao, is a DC landlord who frequently writes about renting out his Dupont Circle condo. In this most recent article, Hsiao humorously illustrates first-hand examples of the obstacles he’s faced when trying to pick the perfect tenant.

According to Hsiao, it all comes down to the District’s Human Rights Law, a well-intentioned law established to protect renters from discrimination. But despite its good intentions, the law provides some additional challenges for owners. For example, it is illegal to discriminate against families and children when renting out a house or apartment. Protecting renting families seems reasonable, right?

But what if an owner doesn’t want all of the structural and aesthetic damage that comes with children? (Full disclaimer: I absolutely love children and have worked as a full-time nanny for years, but let’s not pretend they don’t cause some damage — the paint on walls from flying art supplies, the dings in the hardwood floors that result from dropped toy trucks, the rips in window screens from “practicing with my scissors,” etc.)

Further more, Hsiao explains that if an owner puts a cap on the number of tenants to whom he/she would like to rent, it appears as though the owner is discriminating from families.

“The formula for figuring out how many tenants a landlord legally should allow is the number of bedrooms multiplied by two plus one,” writes Hsiao in his article. “In other words, my two-bedroom apartment should be available to as many as five tenants. But who is that law protecting, a young family or a gang of college students who are willing to jam together for cheaper housing? We can all come up with perfectly rational non-discriminatory reasons why a landlord might not want to have five people living in an apartment.”

Another conundrum: DC landlords can’t turn away someone who does not have a source of income to pay the rent, as long as someone on the lease (such as daddy, the co-signer) can cover the monthly payments (this law does protect those in the Section 8 housing program).

So then, what’s the best way for Hsiao to find the perfect tenant? Not to meet them in person is the answer. If you never meet them, you can never be accused of discriminating.

As a renter myself, I fully support laws that protect those of us who pay exorbitant amounts of money each month for 600-square-feet of living. However, are the laws imposed on owners too strict and strange to navigate? Should someone who owns an apartment or house have more leeway in DC in getting to choose who will live in, and take care of, that space?

I just know that if I am ever lucky enough to own a slice of living space in this city, I want the option of saying “hell, no” to the college tenant that was formerly me.

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by October 10, 2011 at 10:50 am 2,050 0

Borderstan, New Hampshire Avenue NW

It’s a tight, expensive rental market in DC. (Matty Rhoades)

From Matty Rhoades. 

In last week’s reader poll, we asked Borderstanis how much they pay in rent. Readers were asked to select a range per monthly rent. So, how does your monthly rent-check-pain compare?

Considering how rapidly the value of real estate has escalated in the last decade in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area, the results were not particularly surprising: Only 21% of poll takers said they paid $1,000 or less.

The largest chunk of readers, 43%, said they pay from $1,001 to $1,500 a month in rent. A total of 36% pay $1,501 or more each month. Total results are below.

  • $500 or Less: 1%
  • $501 to $1,000: 21%
  • $1,001 to $1,500: 43%
  • $1,501 to $2,000: 20%
  • $2,001 to $3,000: 13%
  • More than $3,000: 3%

One Logan Circle area realtor told Borderstan, “The average prices in the 20009 zip code are around $1,400 for a studio, $2,000 for a one-bedroom and $3,000-plus for a two bedroom. The real shocker is what is happening with two-bedroom apartments, they are getting very expensive very fast.”

A property owner who rents a number of units in the area said, “”Even though young professionals are locating in areas further away from Dupont/Logan (including NOMA/FL/NY Avenue area, Ledroit Park, Columbia Heights/Petworth, NE Capitol Hill), the areas surrounding 14th St from P to U remains the destination of choice for many, if they can afford it. Also, many previous buyers are unable to buy housing simply because of current traditional mortgage financing qualification requirements. Most lenders are requiring 10 to 20% down payments compared to 5 to 10% in the past.”

“Therefore, many previous would-be buyers are forced to continue to rent and save for an eventual down payment. The strong job market and lack of new units being produced relative to five years ago create a demand over supply situation that has led to rents continuing to rise, especially in highly desirable areas. Another area with huge increase in rents recently is Columbia Hts. Renters like like access to three Metro stops and the availability of abundant new retail and nightlife,” according to this Dupont-Logan landlord.

According to, the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in DC is $1,100 — of course that is for the entire city. NBC Washington reported last month that the average monthly rent for Washington-Arlington-Alexandria is $1,473 per month — a 7% increase in the past year. gives a much higher figure of $1,734 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, with Logan Circle units going for $2,550 for all apartments in the neighborhood. According to a January article on Urban Turf, Trulia came up with a median rental price tag in DC of $2,835 per month for apartments of all sizes.

What’s driving rising rents in DC? Well, demand – jobs are more plentiful here than in many other metro areas. Second, many transplants are choosing to rent instead of buy because of the unpredictable economy and housing market.

No wonder more and more people in DC are electing for roommates.


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