State Rules and Regulations for District of Columbia Rental Properties and Landlords
The vast majority of landlord-tenant and rental laws are handled at the state level. Those who own property in multiple states or renters who have recently moved to a new state should familiarize themselves with the laws of the state in which they either own property or are currently residing. These laws outline the means by which conflicts are resolved and outline the procedures for remedying issues that occur between landlords and tenants.
In addition to state laws, landlords and tenants may also find rental laws at the city, county, and federal levels. We will consider the federal laws first.
Official Rules and Regulations in District of Columbia
- D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 300 to 311 – Landlord and Tenant
- D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 1000 to 1099 – Rooming Houses
- D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 1100 to 1199 – Boarding Houses
- D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 1200 to 1299 – Apartment Houses
- D.C. Code § 42-3201 to 42-3610 – Real Property, Rental Housing
- D.C. Code § 11-1301 to 11-1323 and § 16-3901 to 16-3910 – Small Claims and Conciliation
- D.C. Code § 42 – Real Property
- Washington, D.C. Tenant Survival Guide (pdf)
District of Columbia Landlord Tenant Laws – Responsibilities of Landlords
In the District of Columbia, if you are renting out residential property, even if it is only a single room in your home, you are required to do the following before you begin renting out your property:
- Obtain a certificate of occupancy unless the property you are renting out is an apartment, cooperative unit, or condominium that is located in a building that already has a certificate of occupancy for the whole building or the rental property is an entire single-family home
- Obtain a housing business license
- File a registration or claim of exemption from the Rent Stabilization Program (rent control)
If you are already renting property and have not met these requirements, you are breaking the law. You may want to talk to a lawyer before you attempt to register your property to see if you can avoid incurring penalties when you register.
Security Deposits in District of Columbia
- Security Deposit Maximum: One month’s rent (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.2)
- Restriction on Deposit: If the tenant has occupied a unit since July 17, 1985, and no deposit was collected then, a landlord shall not demand or receive a security deposit now. (D.C. Code § 42-3502.17)
- Security Deposit Interest:
- Landlord is required to earn interest for the tenant on any security deposit for tenancies with a duration of 12 months or more. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 311.2)
- Landlord must deposit the security deposit into an interest bearing escrow account, for the sole purposes of holding such deposits, with a financial institution in the District of Columbia within 30 days of receipt. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.3)
- At the end of every year, the landlord shall disclose where the tenants’ security deposits are held and what the prevailing rate was for each 6-month period over the past year. At the termination of tenancy, the housing provider must pay the accrued interest to the tenant and shall also list the interest rate for each 6-month period during the tenancy. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.7).
- Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: Yes, deposited into an escrow or separate account within 30 days of receipt (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.4). The owner of more than one residential building may establish one (1) escrow account for holding security deposits or other payments by the tenants of those buildings. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.5)
- Pet Deposits and Additional Fees: No Statute
- Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 45 days to return deposit (and interest) or notify tenant of withholdings. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.1). Landlord has 30 days after sending notice of withholdings to refund the remaining deposit. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.2)
- Require Written Description / Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.2)
- Require Advanced Notice of Deposit Withholdings: No Statute
- Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No Statute
- Receipt of Deposit: Required. The owner shall provide written receipts for all monies paid by the tenant as rent, security, or otherwise, unless the payment is made by personal check, and is to include the exact amount received, the date the monies are received, and the purpose of the payment. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 306)
- Failure to Comply: If the landlord fails to comply with the statutes regarding security deposits (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.1 and § 309.2), the tenant is entitled to a full return of deposit, including interest as provided in D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.11, and landlord may incur a civil fine of not more than $ 5000 for each violation.
Evictions in District of Columbia
Self-help eviction is illegal in D.C.In D.C., you must file a lawsuit against your tenant and receive a “judgment for possession” to evict the tenant. After you have a judgment for possession, you must coordinate the eviction through the U.S. Marshals Service.It is illegal to remove the tenant’s property, change the locks, turn off the heat, water, or other services or do anything else to force the tenant out except scheduling an eviction through the U.S. Marshals Service.
If you evict a tenant without a judgment for possession or without using the U.S. Marshals Service, you may be responsible for paying the tenant for property damage plus money damages for breaking the law. The Court may also order you to let the tenant return to the property until you have followed the Court process to remove the tenant legally.
To legally evict a tenant you must be able to prove to the Court that at least one (1) of the following reasons is true:
- The tenant didn’t pay the rent;
- The tenant or an occupant violated some other part of the lease (for example, keeping a dog when the lease forbids it or having people living in the unit when they are not allowed to be there) or the housing code (for example, by damaging the property or not keeping it clean);
- The tenant or an occupant violated the law within the property;
- The tenant or an occupant is maintaining a drug-haven within the property;
- You want to take back the property for your immediate and personal use;
- You intend to renovate the property and cannot safely do so with the tenant living there;
- You intend to demolish the property;
- The property has to be substantially rehabilitated or renovated; or
- The property is no longer going to be used as rental housing.
District of Columbia Lease, Rent & Fees
- Rent Is Due: No Statute
- Rent Increase Notice: Landlord must file a notice with the RACD. Additional guidance is provided in D.C. Code § 42-3502.22.
- Rent Grace Period: 5 Days (Rental Housing Late Fee Fairness Amendment Act of 2016)
- Late Fees: 5% of rent (Rental Housing Late Fee Fairness Amendment Act of 2016)
- Prepaid Rent: No Statute
- Returned Check Fees: No Statute
- Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): No Statute
- Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes, but only for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of smoke detectors/alarms. (D.C. Code Ann. §§ 6-751.10)
- Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney Fees: Yes (D.C. Code § 11-1321)
- Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Rerent: No Statute
District of Columbia Business Licenses
- Business License: A rental license, business license, and property inspection are required – visit D.C. Code § 47-2828
- Rental Unit Fee: $21.50 (D.C. Code § 42-3504.01)
- Washington Post – Tips on Renting in the District of Columbia
- LawHelp FAQs by Landlords
- DC Housing Authority
- DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
- DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking
- DC Office of the Attorney General
- DC Office of the Tenant Advocate
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – DC
- DC Real Estate Commission
- GCAAR – Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS®