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District of Columbia Landlord-Tenant Laws

A summary of District of Columbia Landlord Tenant Laws based on state law statutes as they apply to residential lease agreements executed between landlords and tenants.

Required Disclosures (by Landlords)

At the start of every new tenancy, landlord must give tenant a copy of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, CDCR Title 14, Housing, Chapter 3, Landlord and Tenant; and a copy of Title 14, Housing, Chapter 1, § 101 (Civil Enforcement Policy) and Chapter 1, § 106 (Notification of Tenants Concerning Violations). (14 D.C. Mun. Regs. § 300)

In the lease, rental agreement, or receipt, landlord must state the terms and conditions under which the security deposit was collected (to secure tenant’s obligations under the lease or rental agreement). (D.C. Code Ann. § 42-3502.17, D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 14, §§ 308 to 310)

Security Deposit Limit

Except for rent-stabilized units, a security deposit may not exceed the amount of one months rent. The lease or a receipt must state the terms and conditions under which the security deposit was collected.

Deadline for Returning Security Deposit

After the tenant vacates, the deposit must be returned within 45 days along with an itemized statement of any deductions that were made.

Security Deposit Interest

Interest (at the prevailing savings account rate) must be paid when tenancy ends.

Small Claims Lawsuits

Actions resulting in damages or security deposits of $5,000 or less may be filed in small claims court.

Rent Control

There is no rent control for a landlord as long as he or she owns no more than four units in D.C. and operates as an individual as opposed to a corporation. A 30 day notice must be given prior to increasing rent.

The Rental Housing Act of 1985 governs all multi-unit apartment buildings and housing accommodations. Under this law, Annual increases are allowed with a 30 day notice and must be based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). A lower cap must be followed for elderly and disabled residents. Larger increases may be requested from local authorities if significant improvements were made. Read more in the DC Official Code §42-3501.01 et. seq.

Late Fees

Late fees must be addressed in writing, they cannot be charged until 5 days after the rent is due, and cannot exceed 5 percent of the total amount of rent that is due. Also, the law prohibits (1) charging the tenant interest on a late fee; (2) imposing a late fee more than one time on the same late payment; (3) evicting a tenant solely because a late fee wasn’t paid; and (4) imposing a late fee for the portion of rent that a subsidy provider, rather than the tenant, is responsible for paying to the housing provider.

Tenant’s Right to Withhold Rent

If a landlord is notified of a problem with a rental that affects the habitability or heath and safety of the occupants and fails to fix the issue in a timely manner, rent may be withheld or repairs can be made by the tenant and reasonably deducted based upon receipts.

Termination and Eviction

An unconditional quit notice may be given stating 30 days to move before filing for eviction if a court determines that an illegal act was performed within the rental unit. For all other lease violations, a 30 day notice to cure or quit must be used in order to give ample time to correct any issues.

District of Columbia Lease Agreement

See D.C. Residential Lease.

District of Columbia Landlord-Tenant Law Statutes

D.C. Code Ann. §§ 42-3201 to 42-3610; D.C. Mun. Regs., tit. 14, §§ 300 to 311.