D.C. landlords are very restricted in the reasons they can evict a tenant. For reasons other than non-payment of rent, tenants have 30 days to cure the problem. Landlords have to provide evidence of a valid reason for eviction if there is a reason to suspect that the landlord is kicking the tenant out for retaliatory reasons (e.g., if a tenant reported a violation).
Non-Payment of Rent
Landlords are permitted to evict tenants for non-payment of rent. They cannot forcibly remove the tenant themselves and must follow proper eviction procedures, which includes providing notices according to strict legal specifications, taking the tenant to landlord-tenant court, and then allowing law enforcement to evict the tenant.
30-Day Waiting Period For Other Reasons
If landlords are evicting a tenant for any reason other than non-payment of rent, they must send a “written notice to vacate and… [serve] a copy of that notice on the Rent Administrator, not more than five (5) days after service on the tenant.” Such notice must give tenants at least thirty (30) days to correct the violation, starting when the notice was delivered The landlord must additionally provide clear evidence of the reason if there is a reason to suspect the eviction is really for a retaliatory reason (for example, because a tenant reported a housing violation in the past 6 months). D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-4300.
Violations of the Lease
If the tenant has violated a requirement in a valid, written lease, the landlord must give them 30 days to fix the violation. For example, if someone has a pet in violation of a lease, the tenant has 30 days to find another home for the pet (or if they can move out, then to move out). The violation in question must have occurred within six months of the day that the landlord provided the notice. In other words, if a landlord is getting annoyed by a tenant, they cannot rely on a technical lease violation from a year ago to kick the tenant out today. D.C. Municipal Regulations 4301.
The D.C. Housing Code has some requirements that for tenants to follow and if they fail to do so, the landlord may evict them legally. Tenants can be evicted if they:
- Keep the place unclean and unsanitary
- Allow trash to accumulate inside the apartment
- Don’t have trash cans in their apartment
- Misuse plumbing, fixtures, or appliances
- “Willfully or wantonly destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove” any part of the structure, apartment, facilities, equipment, or appurtenances (this applies to any tenant guests as well)
D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-800 and 14-4301.
Tenants have 30 days to correct the problem. For example, if trash is accumulating in the apartment, the landlord cannot evict if the tenant takes out the trash. If the tenant punctured a giant hole in a wall, they are allowed 30 days to fix the hole. Because it typically takes 45 to 60 days to evict a tenant in D.C., a tenant must refuse to fix the problem for 30 days AFTER they receive an eviction for the landlord to kick that tenant out.
If any of the following is a result of a valid mental or physical health condition, as defined by the Fair Housing Act, the landlord must first attempt to reasonably accommodate the tenant’s condition. Also, a landlord cannot discriminate against tenants. Therefore, if multiple tenants are unclean or unsanitary, and the landlord only chooses to evict a single tenant, that tenant may be able to argue that it was done for discriminatory reasons. https://ohr.dc.gov/fairhousing
The violation in question must have occurred within six months of the day that the landlord provided the notice. In other words, if a landlord is getting annoyed by a tenant, they cannot rely on the fact that the tenant destroyed some portion of the property a year ago to kick that tenant out today. D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-4301.4.
If the tenant did any of the following 6 months before eviction, a major rent raise, cutting off services, a landlord’s refusal to renew the lease without cause, or any other action to “injure or get back at the tenant”, then it’s presumed that the eviction is unlawful:
- Made a written or oral request in front of a witness for a repair;
- Contacted appropriate officials about a housing code violation;
- Legally withheld all or part of the rent for a housing code violation;
- Organized, was a member of, or was involved in any lawful activities about a tenant organization;
- Made an effort to secure or enforce rights under the lease
- Brought a legal action against the landlord
D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-4303.4.
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.