District of Columbia Landlord Tenant Rights

Renting a home can be stressful, whether you are the lessor or the lessee. Take the stress out of rentals with our below guide on District of Columbia landlord tenant rights.

Landlord Responsibilities

The landlord has certain responsibilities to the tenant. These include:

  • Providing a habitable living space
  • Making requested repairs within a reasonable time
  • Providing water, plumbing and electricity
  • 48-hour written notice of entry

If a landlord does not make repairs after a written request from the tenant, the tenant may request an inspection from the Housing Inspection Section of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The Housing Inspection Section will enforce any necessary repairs. The tenant also has the right to sue the landlord in Small Claims Court for up to $5,000.00.

The landlord is prohibited from any retaliatory action against a tenant for exercising any rights under the District of Columbia’s Landlord Tenant statutes.

Tenant Responsibilities

The tenant also has responsibilities to the landlord. These include:

  • Keeping the unit within cleanliness standards
  • Repairing any damages caused by tenant or guests
  • Reasonable use of all fixtures and appliances
  • Not disturbing other tenants or neighbors

Security Deposit

District of Columbia law limits security deposits to one months’ rent.

The security deposit must be returned within 45 days after the tenant moves out of the rental unit. If the tenant lived in the rental unit for more than a year they are entitled to interest as well. A landlord may be responsible for paying the full security deposit plus damages if they wrongfully withhold a tenant’s security deposit. However, the security deposit can be withheld for the following reasons:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear
  • Any reason explicitly stated in the lease

Landlords must provide the tenant a detailed written statement with the reasons for withholding any portion of a tenant’s security deposit.

Rent and Fees

District of Columbia has a rent control law that is applicable to most rental units (landlords with more than four rental units). The District of Columbia has a specific method of computing the allowable annual increase in rent based on the Consumer Price Index. The landlord must meet the following requirements in order to increase rent:

  • Register the property with the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Rental Accommodation Division
  • Landlord’s property must be in substantial compliance with housing regulations
  • Last rental price increase was at least 12 months ago
  • Tenant is provided a 30-day notice

Landlords can charge late fees for up to 5% of a tenant’s monthly rent. Regardless, the lease must explicitly state the maximum amount of late fees that may be charged. In addition, there is a 5-day grace period before a landlord can charge late fees. There is no specific law in the District of Columbia on the maximum fee for returned checks.

Evictions

Evictions can occur in District of Columbia under the following circumstances:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Lease violation
  • No lease or end of lease
  • Illegal Acts
  • Landlord’s good faith personal use and occupancy

A landlord cannot evict a tenant in retaliation or based on discriminatory reasons.

Tenants can end a lease early for the following listed reasons:

  • Early termination clause
  • Active military duty
  • Domestic violence
  • Landlord harassment or Privacy violation
  • Uninhabitable unit (in accordance with D.C. Code)

If a District of Columbia tenant breaks the lease early, they may be required to pay the outstanding amount due on the lease agreement. However, landlords are required to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit.

Lease Termination Notice

If the lease is Month-to-Month, the tenant must provide a 30-Day notice. If the lease is for a certain term, notice is not required.

Relevant Agencies

District of Columbia Housing Authority

District of Columbia Office of the Tenant Advocate

District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development

Utility Links

Water

Electric

Gas

Official Rules and Regulations

District of Columbia Landlord Tenant Law