D.C. tenants have many rights, and a new law requires landlords to give them a "Tenant Bill of Rights" laying them out.
D.C. has long had tenant-friendly laws, but tenant advocates argue that they're no good if renters are not aware of them. That will soon change.
Last week, the D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate published a "Tenant Bill of Rights" that landlords will be required to give to all potential renters laying out D.C. law and regulations on everything from lease and security deposits to rent increases and eviction.
Here are some provisions included in the bill of rights:
- A landlord can ask for security deposit, but it cannot exceed the cost of one month's rent. The deposit must be placed in an interest-bearing account. Within 45 days of vacating the unit, the landlord must either return the deposit to the renter with interest, or provide notice that it will be used to "defray legitimate expenses." If that occurs, the landlord has 30 days to itemize those expenses.
- If you don't live in a rent-controlled unit, the only limits on rent increases will be whatever is written into the lease.
- A landlord cannot interfere with a "tenant’s comfort, safety or enjoyment of a rental unit."
- D.C. law allows only 10 reasons for proceeding with an eviction, and the cited reason has to be approved by a court for it to proceed. If there is a proper reason for eviction, the landlord can't use "self-help" means — like changing the locks or cutting off utilities — to get you out.
The four-page bill of rights is the product of a bill introduced in the D.C. Council in 2013 and signed into law by former mayor Vincent Gray last August. According to a committee report on the measure, "[If] citizens don't know their legal rights, they can't exercise them. This bill is a very simple, low-cost solution to that problem."
While the bill was backed by tenant advocates and received unanimous approval from the Council, housing providers expressed concern that it would impose additional burdens and costs on them. They also said that Department of Housing and Community Development should be in charge of publishing the bill of rights, instead of the Office of the Tenant Advocate, which represents and advises tenants on their rights.
All landlords will be required to give the bill of rights to prospective renters starting in July. If they do not, they will forgo any rights to impose rent increases on that property.
Bill of Rights