PRESS RELEASE: McDuffie Introduces Bill to Close Gap in Nuisance Property Law Highlighted at Recent Ward 5 Emergency Public Safety Meeting

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Washington, DC – Today, Councilmember McDuffie, Ward 5, introduced legislation to close a gap in current drug-related nuisance abatement law that was brought to light at his recent Ward 5 Emergency Public Safety meeting held on March 7, 2017.

Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Amendment Act of 2017
This legislation expands current law to permit civil actions against problem tenants who are complicit in allowing drug, firearm, and prostitution-related activity in their home or place of business. Current law allows action against owners of commercial property, but not their tenants.

This legislation is the direct result of a suggestion made by Ward 5 resident Verna Clayborne at the Ward 5 Emergency Public Safety meeting hosted by Councilmember McDuffie on March 7, 2017. Ms. Clayborne and the Franklin Street Area Neighborhood Association residents live in the Brookland neighborhood, behind a small retail shopping center at Rhode Island Avenue NE, 13th Street NE, and Brentwood Road NE that has been a concern in the community for years.

Under current law, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, and community-based organizations may file an action against a commercial property owner to enjoin, abate, or prevent a drug, firearm, and prostitution-related nuisance. However, many times the property owner is cooperative but the tenant is not, and provisions in leasing documents may prevent the owner from taking action. This bill corrects that problem by allowing enforcement against a commercial tenant and also authorizes the Superior Court to impose civil penalties of up to $10,000 against owners and tenants who violate this law.

With introduction of this legislation, Councilmember McDuffie said: “I am so pleased that Ms. Clayborne came out and shared her ideas at my Ward 5 Emergency Public Safety Meeting on March 7. She correctly identified a gap in D.C. nuisance abatement law, which this law directly addresses.

While this legislation will help Ms. Clayborne and her neighbors, it is not just about this one location. I hear the same concerns from all over Ward 5. Unfortunately, there are many cases where a property owner is cooperative but the tenant is not, and often these commercial leases do not lend themselves to seamless enforcement of nuisance property laws. This legislation provides the government with another tool to help keep our neighborhoods safe.”