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Barring notices by the book

(Published September 10, 2001)

According to the D.C. Housing Authority’s "Manual of Policy and Procedure," a handbook of regulations for use by DCHA police officers, "Barring Notices require that barred persons immediately leave the DCHA property from which they have been barred and not return."

The manual does not say which offenses may draw a barring notice, but according to DCHA spokesman Arthur Jones, the list is long and broadly defined. "There’s a large range of situations," he said. "Loitering, bothering the general public, conducting illegal activities — if you have visitors who are threatening to other residents, we have a responsibility to protect our residents."

The manual lists two categories of people who may be eligible to receive a barring notice. The first is "non-residents who are trespassing on DCHA property." The other is "residents of one DCHA property trespassing on another DCHA site."

The manual makes no mention of any situation in which a resident of a DCHA property may be barred from any part of their own building.

But DCHA Executive Director Michael Kelly said barring notices may be levied against a resident to enforce provisions of the resident’s lease. "You’re in compliance (with your lease) or you’re not in compliance," he said.

Jones said, "If you intrude, impede, or become a bother to others’ quality of life, we have a responsibility to act."

However, Barbara Rice, a Washington lawyer in private practice who represents several D.C. landlords, said she doubts whether barring notices could be applied against residents in their own buildings.

"When you pay rent, you aren’t just paying for your apartment," she said. "Some places will have a rec room or an exercise room, say, and you’re also paying for use of those common facilities." So, she said, "If (DCHA is) withholding services" through an "internal" barring notice, "that’s a diminution of services."

According to Rice, a resident so barred could file a tenant’s petition with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Or, she suggested, "(the resident) could even withhold their rent."

Rice said that in three-and-a-half years of practicing real estate law in the District, she had heard of two barring notices, both against non-residents of a property.

According to Jones, between December 2000 and May 2001 — the most recent period for which numbers were available – DCHA issued barring notices 364 times. That included notices to both residents and non-residents, Jones said. – John DeVault

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator