Once the landlord begins the eviction process, it will take about 30 to 60 days to fully evict a tenant, including the time to provide notice and going to court.
Landlords are required to be licensed in D.C. If the landlord is renting without a business license, the eviction process will reveal the landlord’s licensing violation which can result in a $2000 – $4000 fine for a first offense (more for additional violations) (source).
30 Day Notice to Vacate
Before a landlord can begin an eviction proceeding, they must typically give the tenant a notice that says they have 30 days to vacate the apartment or correct the reason for eviction. The notice must have the following:
- A statement detailing the factual basis on which the housing provider relies, including references to the specific provisions of Title V of the Act on which the claim for eviction is grounded;
- The minimum time to vacate (under § 501 of the Act);
- A statement that the housing accommodation is registered with the Rent Administrator, and the registration number, or a statement that the accommodation is exempt from registration, and the basis for the exemption; and
- A statement that a copy of the notice to vacate is being furnished to the Rent Administrator including the address and telephone number of the RACD.
- Additional notices are required when:
- Eviction is for substantial rehabilitation, alteration, renovation, demolition, or discontinuance of use
- The landlord is evicting to sell the apartment, including a certification showing the tenant was afforded an opportunity to purchase
Housing Code Violations
In the process of conducting an eviction, the tenant will have an opportunity to tell their side of their story in court. At this point, if a tenant is being evicted for non-payment of rent and can show that there are substantial housing violations, the landlord may be asked to fix those problems before they are granted permission to evict the tenant. The apartment is likely to be subject to an inspection to independently verify the condition of the apartment. For this reason, if there are housing violations, the landlord should work to fix them before beginning the eviction proceeding.
Opportunity to Purchase
D.C. has a relatively unique law called the Tenant’s Opportunity to Purchase Act (or TOPA). This law is meant to give tenants some rights when a landlord is seeking to sell an apartment house or building. Tenants have the opportunity to purchase the building at about the same price as the buyer that the landlord found.
There are tight deadlines (some as short as 15 days) and complicated rules and processes for tenants to use the right. If a tenant has any interest in engaging with the TOPA process, they should talk to a lawyer immediately. The law works in stages, extending the process sometimes as long as 180 days. Tenants can back out at most stages, but failure to meet the strict deadlines at each stage with cause tenants to forfeit their rights, enabling landlords to continue with their sale and eviction. Details about the process are available here: https://ota.dc.gov/page/tenant-opportunity-purchase-act-topa.
At the time of writing, legislation is moving through that exempts single-family homes from TOPA. Concerns that financiers were working with tenants to block and extort landlords prompted a reduction in the scope of the law to prevent potential abuses.
D.C. uses a landlord-tenant court to resolve housing disputes. This is very informal – almost like a mediation. Landlords and tenants typically come with their own evidence (copies of relevant text messages and emails, pictures of problems, etc.). The judge asks each side to tell their story and to provide any evidence to back up their claims if it’s disputed.
State and Local Laws
Laws differ heavily by state, county, and city. Use RenterPeace to see more specific laws for to a given apartment and to see comments from people in your area.
Documenting the Problem
For most problems, tenants should document their issues, notify their landlord (document this too!), and stay informed about their rights. Renterpeace is a free website that helps with each step of this process. Tenants use RenterPeace to more easily see applicable laws, track their problems, and much more. There's a reason RenterPeace was selected "Best of" legal apps for both Android and iOS. It also includes household management tools, like a chore manager and bill tracker. Try it - you don't even to login first.
Using Property Management
To stay updated and organized about the problems in their apartments, landlords should use a property management system. Many are expensive or have high setup fees, but using RenterPeace for landlords is free. It's complete with legal compliance tips targeted to their problems, maintenance tracking, tenant screening, money-saving grant information, and tenant chat. It makes managing properties easier and staying updated about status of rental properties a breeze. Try it today.