In the District of Columbia, I need to get a simple Basic Business License to rent out a single dwelling. After puzzling over the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs website for a bit, it became clear that step No. 1 was actually to file form FR-500 with the Office of Tax and Revenue, which you can do online. Then it was time to hustle down to the DCRA (which closes at 4:30 p.m.) to file the paperwork. Once there, I learned that filing the FR-500 online wasn’t good enough—I needed a hard copy. Fortunately, the Office and Tax and Revenue was right across the street, so I went there and refiled. Then it was back to the DCRA to stand in line to get a number, wait for the number to be called, do some more paperwork, wait in another line for the cashier, fork over $100 in fees, then get a slip from the cashier to finalize the paperwork.
But then it turned out I needed to go to a third office, the Rental Accommodations Division of the Department of Housing and Community Development. It closes at 3:30 in the afternoon and required a 15-minute walk through a sketchy neighborhood. So the next morning I went down to that Rental Accommodations office to file a paper claiming exemption from D.C.’s rent control law.
The striking thing about all this isn’t so much that it was annoying—which it was—but that it had basically nothing to do with what the main purpose of landlord regulation should be—making sure I’m not luring tenants into some kind of unsafe situation.