Councilmember Silverman Introduces Bill Requiring Stop Work Orders Be Disclosed to Potential Homebuyers

Today, D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (At-Large) introduced a bill requiring property sellers in D.C. to disclose knowledge of any Stop Work Order issued on a property under consideration for purchase. The “Stop Work Order Disclosure and Regulation Amendment Act of 2016” will increase consumer protections by providing homebuyers with necessary information to make an educated purchase decision. The bill, which was co-introduced by Councilmembers Anita Bonds (At-Large), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), and Jack Evans (Ward 2), came as a result of resident testimony at oversight hearings on the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

“This legislation is a basic consumer protection for homebuyers,” said Silverman. “DCRA Director Melinda Bolling and her staff are working hard to improve the permitting and inspections systems to ensure renovated homes are safe and up to code when they’re sold. Still, bad actors find ways to slip through the cracks. This bill will create a safety net for homebuyers when that happens.”

A Stop Work Order indicates that a DCRA inspector found the renovation of a property to be substandard, or otherwise in violation of issued permits. A physical notice is posted at the property, which requires all construction work be stopped until the violation is resolved. At a DCRA oversight roundtable in July, residents testified that, in some cases, the property owner or general contractor removed the Order notice and continued work in violation. The homebuyer then purchased the property with no knowledge of the Stop Work Order or the underlying violation.

Currently under District law, sellers are required to disclose any knowledge of problems with plumbing and electricity, infestation, appliances, and other potential issues; however, there is no requirement to disclose knowledge of a history of Stop Work Orders. If a property has been subject to one or more Stop Work Orders, homebuyers would subsequently have an opportunity to pursue any additional inspections needed to determine if all deficiencies in the construction process have been adequately corrected.

The bill will not prevent developers from selling homes that have had Stop Work Orders. Rather, the disclosure requirement aims to incentivize developers to follow the District’s current law.

The legislation was referred to the Committee of the Whole, Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs.