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Washington, D.C. Tenant Rights Laws

While renting a home can relieve you of some of the larger responsibilities of home ownership, such as property taxes and major repairs, there are many frustrating issues that can come up during the landlord-tenant relationship. For this reason, Washington, D.C. has a number of laws governing the parties' rights and responsibilities, in addition to other federal housing laws. Read on to learn more about Washington, D.C. tenant rights laws.

Tenant Rights: From Discrimination to Termination

Like the states and federal government, Washington, D.C. protects you against discrimination based on certain characteristics such as race, religion, disability, and political affiliation. Prohibited conduct includes refusing to rent to someone or misrepresenting the availability of a rental unit. Additionally, your landlord is required to maintain the premises in habitable condition, keeping areas safe and sanitary. However, the landlord is not responsible for repairing damage caused by your or your guests' negligent or intentional conduct.

If you do violate the terms of your rental agreement, your landlord may retain all or part of your security deposit to cover the costs associated with those violations. In any case, your landlord must return your entire security deposit or provide a written statement of the deposit withholdings within 45 days of terminating your tenancy. After that, they have 30 days to give you the balance of your deposit.

While these laws are designed to protect you from unfair practices, not everyone feels comfortable asserting their rights. Therefore, it's good to know that your landlord is prohibited from retaliating against you by raising the rent or evicting you because you requested necessary repairs or complained about a housing regulation violation.

Washington, D.C. Tenant Rights Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of Washington, D.C. laws governing the landlord-tenant relationship, including links to important code sections.

Statutes

Security Deposits

  • Limit: One month's rent
  • Must return security deposit (with interest in many cases) or provide written statement of deductions within 45 days after termination of tenancy; landlord then has 30 days to refund balance of deposit
  • Part or all may be used to defray the cost of expenses incurred under the terms and conditions of the security deposit agreement

Paying Rent

  • May raise rent according to lease terms with 30 days' notice, unless unit is subject to rent control where rent may not be increased more than once every 12 months (except for vacancies) according to §42-3502.22

Living Conditions

  • To enter unit, landlord must give at least 48 hours' advanced, written notice, unless otherwise agreed to in writing, and may only enter during reasonable hours to fulfill duties such as:
    • Keep property safe from damage
    • Inspect premises
    • Make necessary or agreed repairs
    • Exhibit unit to prospective purchasers or tenants
  • Landlord must keep premises in habitable, safe, sanitary condition

Discrimination

  • No discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, family responsibilities, disability, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, status as a victim of an intra-family offense, or place of residence or business of any individual

Ending or Renewing a Tenancy

  • Landlord must give notice to terminate a tenancy with no fixed end date:
    • Lease: according to terms of lease
    • Month-to-month tenancies: 30 days
    • Eviction: 30 days
  • Remaining in unit after lease expires converts tenancy to a month-to-month tenancy if the landlord accepts rent from tenant
  • Eviction: court order required

Retaliation

  • Landlord may not retaliate against tenant for exercising tenant rights

Note: State regulations are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Washington, D.C. Tenant Rights Laws: Related Resources

Receive a Free Review of Your Tenancy Issues

While many rental issues can be resolved through clear communication with your landlord, some problems require more effort and persuasion. Whether you're dealing with a new issue or your landlord has been ignoring your pleas for months, receive a free case review to get help asserting your rights under Washington, D.C.'s tenant rights laws.

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