Building Where Deadly Fire Broke Out Was Illegal Rental Property, DC Officials Say

The apartment was not licensed as a residential rental property, according to officials

The rowhouse where a fire killed a man and critically injured a boy was not properly licensed, according to D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

A fire broke out at the building in the 700 block of Kennedy Street NW early Sunday morning, D.C. Fire & EMS said. 

Firefighters rescued a man and a boy from the house and they both were taken to a hospital with critical injuries. The man died a short time later at the hospital, officials said.

Medics also took a woman to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Ernest Chrappah, director of Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, DCRA, said in a statement to News4 on Monday that the property "was not licensed as a residential rental property."

Firefighters had trouble getting to the residents trapped inside because of metal bars on the windows. Video shows them removing the iron bars from the windows.

"I’d like to take this moment to remind tenants in the District that landlords must follow specific fire safety requirements," Chrappah said in a statement. "If you are living in a rental property that is not following these critical safety requirements, please reach out to us—which you can do anonymously—so that we can hold your landlord responsible and ensure that you are living in a safe environment.”

D.C. has a system to find and correct dangerous safety violations in apartments registered with the city. But illegal apartments often go unnoticed until a tragedy occurs.

In 2018, a landlord and building manager were found legally responsible in the deaths of two young people killed in a fire in 2015. They were ordered to pay a combined $15.2 million to the victims' families.

In the District, the detection of potentially hazardous illegal apartments depends on renters to know their rights and neighbors to report anything suspicious, the DCRA previously told News4.

The DCRA says landlords are required to provide the following for residents:

  • Interconnected smoking alarms on every level and inside each sleeping area
  • At least one working fire extinguisher
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Exits, including doors and windows, that can be opened from the inside without the need for keys or any special knowledge or effort
  • Electrical outlets, switches and fixtures that work properly
  • For high rise buildings, a fire safety evacuation plan, along with fire drills at least once every year
  • At least one exterior emergency escape for every sleeping room below the fourth floor

Residents can call DCRA at 202-442-9557 to report issues.

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