Washington DC Landlord-Tenant Laws SummaryAre there rent control/rent stabilization policies or laws in DC?
In DC, all landlords are governed by the Rental Housing Act of 1985. The District of Columbia does have rent stabilization policies.
Landlords should check with local housing officials, an attorney, or the rent control board for further information and to ensure compliance.

How much may I charge for rent?
In DC, all landlords are governed by the Rental Housing Act of 1985 (unless they are exempt or excluded from the Act). Landlords must register with the Housing Regulation Administration to ensure compliance with DC's complex rent control system (which establishes a maximum amount of rent a landlord may charge for a rental unit).
Landlords should check with local housing officials, an attorney, or the rent control board for further information to ensure compliance.

 

What's the maximum rent increase I can make?

Pursuant to the requirements of Section 202(a)(3) of the Rental Housing Act of 1985, D.C. Law 6-10; rent adjustments may not exceed 3.6%. Complete information regarding rent adjustments may be found at DC Certification of Rent Adjustment of General Applicability.

What is the maximum amount I can collect as a security deposit?
Landlords may not charge tenants more than 1 month's rent as a security deposit, and this fee many only be collected once.

Are there requirements for where a security deposit must be held, for example, in a separate escrow account?
Landlords must place the security deposit in an interest bearing account . The terms of the security deposit must be in writing, and given to the tenant. If the premises has been leased for at least 12 months then interest must be paid to the tenant after lease termination.

May I charge an application fee, late rent charge or a returned payment fee?
There are no statutory limits placed on the collection of an application fee, returned payment or late fees.However, it is a good practice to keep the fees reasonable in relation to the costs they incur and not punitive.

Is it permitted to charge a per-diem late fee?
Although this is not prohibited, it tends to be a rare practice.

My tenant has moved out, what do I do with their security deposit?
45 days after lease termination, the landlord must either return the security deposit plus interest, if applicable, or notify the tenant in writing that all or part of the deposit will be used to cover expenses.

  • The landlord must then send the tenant an itemized list of repairs and deductions that have been taken out of the security deposit.
  • After the first notification, the landlord must return the balance of deposit, if any, to the tenant within 30 days.


What is a common problem where security deposits are concerned?
At times landlords may try claiming deductions for items that are often characterized by the court as normal wear and tear. This situation may be prevented by realistically evaluating each deduction, providing proof of damage as well as including repair receipts and pictures.

How can I end a Washington DC lease greement?
Periodic leases such as month to month or quarter to quarter agreements require an advance notice of , 30 days when ending or renewing a lease. When a fixed term is used, (this is a lease with a definite beginning and ending date) no notice to terminate is necessary unless provided in the lease, however, the landlord is entitled to possession immediately upon the expiration of the term.

Are there circumstances where I am required to release a tenant from a lease agreement?
A landlord may be forced to release a tenant from a contractual agreement when the dwelling unit or premise is damaged and/or destroyed by fire or casualty not caused by the tenant, deeming the rental property unlivable, or If the tenant is called to active military duty. Additionally, a tenant may seek release from a rental agreement with the court when a landlord does not abide by the state’s landlord obligations.

My tenant has not paid rent; how much notice do I have to give a tenant in order to evict them?
A landlord may evict a tenant without prior written notice in the case of non-payment of rent.

How long does the eviction process take?
As with any legal matter, exact timing is almost impossible as it depends on many factors. Overall, with no complications, the eviction process usually takes approximately 4-5 weeks.

Can I require my tenants to obtain renter's insurance?
In DC, landlords are not permitted to require tenants to obtain rental insurance.

How do I tell if my tenant has “skipped” out of the apartment?
Often times it’s best to look for the obvious, such as removal of personal goods, whether or not the tenant has come back to the premises at any time during a one week period, and simply no food in the refrigerator. It’s extremely important to document all of the “proof” gathered in order to determine abandonment. When in doubt, if payment of rent has not been made, the landlord may always file for eviction.

Do I have the right to enforce no smoking in my rental property?
A landlord may establish a “No Smoking” policy by providing so in the Lease.

Do I have to give the tenant notice before I enter the rental property?
There are no statutory requirements limiting a landlord's right to enter the leased premises. However, a landlord may not interfere with the tenant’s peace and enjoyment. Therefore, landlords should exercise caution and fairness when entering the leased premises. It's best to give tenants adequate notice, unless an emergency requires immediate entrance.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.