D.C. landlords have strict rules on deducting repair costs from security deposits. Inspections must be done in a strictly specified time period, landlords must give a written notice explaining their intention to deduct money from the rent, and present an itemized statement of the repair costs. Failure to follow these procedures can result in up to a $5000 fine per violation.
The maximum amount of a security deposit in D.C. is the first full month’s rent. It can only be charged once by the landlord. In other words, landlords cannot charge additional security deposits to the same tenant each time the lease is renewed. D.C. Municipal Regulations 308.2.
Escrow Account and Disclosure
Landlords cannot keep the security deposit in their own bank accounts. The security deposit must be held in an interest-bearing account at an insured bank in D.C. “The housing provider shall post in the lobby of the building and rental office at the end of each calendar year, the following information: Where the tenants’ security deposits are held and what the prevailing rate was for each 6-month period over the past year. At the end of a tenant’s tenancy, the housing provider shall list for the tenant the interest rate for each 6-month period during the tenancy.” D.C. Municipal Regulations 308.
Deadlines for Inspection
If the landlord wants to deduct costs for repairs, they have strict deadlines to follow to inspect the apartment for damages. “The owner may inspect the dwelling unit within three (3) days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, before or after the termination of the tenancy.” They also must “notify the tenant in writing of the time and date of the inspection” at least ten days before the inspection. D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-310.
Repayment of Security Deposit
Landlords have 45 days after the end of the tenancy (e.g., the last day the tenant has the right to be in the apartment) to return the security deposit and any interest. However, if the landlord wishes to deduct the cost of repairs, they must notify the tenant of their intention to deduct some or all of the deposit within that 45 day period. Then, the landlord has an additional 30 days to return the money along with an “itemized statement of the repairs and other uses to which the monies were applied and the cost of each repair or other use.” D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-309.2.
Security Deposit Interest
Unless the tenancy was less than 12 months or the interest was deducted under the terms of the security deposit, the landlord must return any interest earned on the security deposit through the escrow account. While not frequently enforced, there are harsh penalties for ignoring this requirement: “Any housing provider who willfully violates the provisions of this section by failing to pay interest on a security deposit escrow account that is rightfully owed to a tenant in accordance with the requirements of this section shall be subject to a civil fine of not more than $ 5000 for each violation.” Tenants can hold the landlord responsible by taking them to landlord-tenant court (a casual court, where each side tells their side of the story along with any documentation or evidence to back it up). D.C. Municipal Regulations 311.2.
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.