How To Move In DC

Photo courtesy of
‘Echo #13′
courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

My wife and I are in the process of handling a number of niggling little tasks related to our impending move into the District, and this short post is a series of lessons that we’ve learned as part of this process. Trust us when we say: learn from our mistakes. There are some key details that you need to know as part of any move, and as G.I. Joe taught all of us Gen-Xers, “Knowing is Half the Battle.”

As part of our move, we moved out of our condo for a week while we had some work done (floors sanded, walls painted, all those niceties you do as part of a real estate process) and that meant moving our stuff into a portable storage unit. Lesson #1: You Need a Right-of-Way Permit for These Things. That means, if you’re going to park one of these storage units on the street, you’re going to need to pony up to whomever controls the streets in your neighborhood. If that’s DC, you want to call DDOT’s permitting office at 202.673.6813. If that’s Arlington, you have to fill out a form and then you need to call the county right of way permits office at 703.228.3629 extension 10. You need to apply in advance, but if you forget, sometimes they’ll bail you out. The tickets for these things are brutally expensive, so don’t forget to call them.

Photo courtesy of
‘Old desk at Radial’
courtesy of ‘dprevite’

When you move, you have to decide a couple things: Do my friends love me? Will they continue to do so if I ask them to move my 200lb desk set a third time in three years? They say that you can tell a good friend by the ones who move your furniture, and as much as I try to be a good friend, in my advancing age, I’ve noticed that my desire to move things has declined. There are so many moving companies in the DC area that I can hardly recommend a single one or suggest that you pick a specific mover. There are some general rules of thumb that will allow you to make a good choice. Lesson #2: If You Use Movers, Get It In Writing. If you’re moving from one jurisdiction to another, be absolutely certain to get your estimate in writing. While it’s difficult to enforce at the moment, there is a federal statute that says they cannot charge you more than 110% of your written non-binding estimate, and many reputable moving companies will guarantee their estimates. If you think a company is being shady about giving you an estimate, hang up the phone and call another company. If you have concerns, be sure to check out their license and bond, which they should show you when asked.

If you do decide that your friendships can handle at least one more move, Lesson #3: You Buy the Beer and Pizza. Nothing says thank you for moving that 50lb Rubbermaid tub of porn quite like a cold beer and a slice from an area pizzeria. Get more pizza than you think your friends can eat; cold pizza is the breakfast of champions. Make sure to have on hand: First Aid Kit, Advil/Tylenol, and a spare back brace and/or ace bandage for your friend that might just hurt himself, okay? It’s all about being a good citizen.

Photo courtesy of
‘Constitution in the National Archives’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

While we’re looking at buying in the District, there are some things you should know about tenant rights. DC is a very tenant-friendly jurisdiction, and your lease is a contract that has obligations that may not be clear from the language. DCRA has a PDF tenant rights guide that pretty much everyone in DC who’s renting should read from start to finish. It covers maintenance to the unit, what conditions must be in order for you to pay rent, how to handle dispute with your landlord and a ton of other stuff. Lesson #4: DCRA Can Help  if You Have a Leasing Problem. Know Your Rights.

While we’re on the subject of moving itself, let’s talk about your primary checklist of identity documents. If your Driver’s License says the wrong address, the Police might not like that so much, and it could be a problem for you, in terms of carrying valid ID. You don’t want to be that guy or gal, so let’s talk about identity documents for a second. Lesson #5: Valid ID is a High Priority. Yeah, going to the DMV is a lot like going to the dentist. It could hurt like hell, or it could be painless, but you absolutely have to go. If you live in DC for more than 30 days, you must change your vehicle registration. There are some exemptions for people here for limited periods of time to work for the government or attend an institution of higher learning, and processes for maintaining your current registration, but don’t forget the ROSA permit for parking on the street. So, what do you need for a shiny new DC license? The DMV has a full website for moving to DC, and how to bring appropriate identity documents for you and your vehicle. With regard to the vehicle, save yourself some time and effort if you don’t yet own your car outright and download the request for title form which you will need to mail to your lienholder in order to get that done before you arrive. In order: Change your insurance to the new address, Send in the request for title form to your lienholder, then go to the DMV with all your ID forms, proof of residency (a lease or power bill will do) and registration/title/plates and you’re gold.

Okay, that’s enough for now, but I’m happy to take moving-related questions in the comments, and I’ll do my best to help you get good answers.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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2 thoughts on “How To Move In DC

  1. One more tip — if you’re wavering on the question of insuring your move, do it. When I was wavering, the moving company said, “you don’t have anything expense, don’t worry about it”. I believed them, because although my HDTV was big and expensive, I had packed it myself in its original box. What I forgot was my bed, which cost several hundred dollars. To the movers, that might not be much, but to me, it was a whole lot. They ruined my bed, and because I didn’t buy the insurance, I got a very, very small amount back from them based on the weight of the bed — and furthermore, they refused to honor the weight they had written on the estimate. Because of this refusal, I was able to lodge a black mark against them through the Better Business Bureau, to save the next person a similar headache, but for myself? I was out a lot of money for a new queen-size bed.