- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In May, the D.C. Council began pondering two questions: Who should pay for evicting tenants, and who is responsible for the tenants’ personal property?

The legislation, titled the Eviction with Dignity Act of 2018, signals where lawmakers are headed — that is, to give tenants a well-cushioned landing when they are kicked out of their homes for failure to pay rent.

In addition to nonpayment, the D.C. Office of Tenant Advocate lists nine other statuary reasons on its website why tenants may be evicted, including commissioning a crime on the rental property. “Judicial process is required for all evictions,” the agency says.

Now, you’d have to be a mighty hard-hearted Hannah to oppose single tenants or families wanting to rent decent, sanitary housing — even in a city where much of the slums just two generations ago included shanty living in Northeast and Southeast, most notably on Capitol Hill. No water, heat, AC or plumbing in those parts.

Indeed, back then there was no Office of the Tenant Advocate, which came about in 2006, when city leaders, the White House and Congress began stabilizing the District’s fiscal house.

The primary purpose of the tenant advocate “is the legal protection of District tenants, creation of educational products and the design and coordination of community based programs.” However, there’s a hitch: “[T]he office is responsible for the administration of a citywide emergency housing program.”

And, frankly, therein uncovers the socialist mask of the council’s legislative proposal.

While the Eviction with Dignity Act was introduced in May by Democratic Councilmembers Trayon White and Anita Bonds, the genesis of any honest oversight for tenant evictions began last fall, when a business on Capitol Hill was evicted by the U.S. Marshals Service, which handles evictions in the federal district.

The eviction happened in October to a company called Speedy Tax Service, which the marshals evicted after a court order for its failure to pay rent and other costs. The eviction left thousands of boxes and documents along H Street NE, and those documents contained customers’ tax and Social Security data, and other personal information.

The Treasury Department eventually collected the documents, and very soon afterward D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes moved into action, seeking a probe of what happened.

In a Nov. 3 letter to Michael A. Hughes, U.S. marshal for D.C. Superior Court, and Judge Robert E. Morin, chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, Mrs. Norton wrote: “I urge you to adopt protocols and policies to protect sensitive information during evictions.”

Well, fast-foward eight months and here’s the council not handing consumers a definitive guide to protecting such precious info. Nope, that would be the right thing to do.

Instead, the Council is set to take a far-left turn and approve an eviction plan that has so many layers it puts two-ply tissue to shame.

Part of the bill says landlords must maintain and exercise reasonable care in storing the personal property of a tenant who has vacated the premises, either voluntarily or by eviction.

“The property shall be stored in the vacated unit,” the legislation says. “During this period, the tenant can recover the property without paying rent or storage fees. After 72 hours, the landlord may dispose of the property without notice to the tenant.

In other words, now the evicted tenants know all they have to do is break into their former home, rummage through their belongings and vamoose. Oh, and claim the landlord stole whatever it was they reclaimed.

Clever is as clever does, and D.C. lawmakers always turn to the left instead of the right, where commonsense prevails.

Anyway, perhaps two months from now when they return from their long, hot summer recess, they’ll come to their senses.

In the meantime, who’s going to pay for evicting tenants, and who is responsible for the tenants’ personal property? D.C. taxpayers, of course.

The tenant advocate is going to need more bureaucrats to fulfill the new mission.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]


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