Landlords' Guide to Rental Laws in D.C.

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The District of Columbia is a tourist destination, college town, and a bustling city for young, successful professionals. With a median Zillow rent price of $2,523, it also boasts one of the highest rental rates in the country. Although this all sounds like a great spot to invest, it is imperative that you know the ins and outs of real estate law in the area before you sink your hard-earned money into a property there. Here are some of the most important rental laws to know for landlords in D.C.


Required Disclosures

In D.C., there are numerous disclosures that your tenants must legally be informed of prior to moving in. Here are a few of these required disclosures:

- If there are pending petitions filed by the tenant or housing provider that have implications for the following year, such as rent increases, the landlord must disclose that information. They must also disclose whether there are any rent surcharges for the unit like capital improvement surcharges, and they must disclose what those surcharge expiration dates are.

- Landlords must inform tenants of any rent increases for the unit and the frequency that they will be implemented. With this information, landlords must also provide a pamphlet created by the Rent Administrator that explains rent increases and the corresponding laws and regulations.

- All code violations for the unit, nonrefundable fees, and past and current existence of mold must be disclosed to the tenant in writing. 

- If the housing accommodation is currently undergoing conversion into a condominium, cooperative, or another non-housing use, the landlord must disclose this information. 

- All ownership information must be disclosed to the tenant, and landlords must provide a copy of the Tenant Bill of Rights, Voter Registration Packet, and a receipt for their security deposit.


Rent and Fees

D.C. landlord tenant laws lay out rules for landlords when collecting rent and other fees from their tenants.

Firstly, it’s important to note that some properties in D.C. are rent controlled. Rent increases in this territory are subject to the Rent Stabilization Program established by the Rental Housing Act of 1985. This program requires units to be registered as either subject to or exempt from rent control. Units that are exempt could include subsidized rentals, those built after 1975, or owned by a smaller landlord with less than four properties. 

D.C. also has laws regarding the amount of certain fees. Rental application fees, for instance, are capped at a maximum of $50 in D.C. Late fees must be less than or equal to 5% of the remaining amount due, and landlords are prohibited from charging interest on the fee, deducting the fee from a later rent payment, imposing a late fee on more than one late payment, or evicting a tenant solely on the basis of not paying a late fee. D.C. also has a mandatory grace period of five days, meaning tenants have at least five days to pay rent after the due date before landlords can legally apply late fees.



According to the D.C. eviction process, in situations of rent nonpayment, landlords must give tenants at least 30 days to either pay their rent or quit the property. However, a landlord can only start evictions proceedings if the rent due is at least $600. 

If the tenant has committed a lease violation, they have 30 days to cure their violation or quit the property.

D.C. landlords may send an unconditional notice to quit when the tenant has performed an illegal act in the rental unit. Again, the tenant has 30 days to vacate before the landlord can file for eviction with the court, but the landlord does not have to offer the tenant an opportunity to remedy their violation. 


Security Deposits

D.C. security deposit laws state that landlords may not charge more than one month’s rent for a security deposit. 

Landlords are required to pay interest on their deposits, and that interest must be returned to the tenant after their tenancy has been concluded. The landlord also should post a clearly visible notice in their lobby specifying where the tenant’s deposit is behind held, and what interest rates apply that year. 

Security deposits must be held in a separate, interest-bearing escrow account, and the security deposit must be deposited into that account within 30 days of receipt. 

Deposits must be returned within 45 days after a lease terminates. If the landlord withheld any funds from the deposit, they must be for violations of the lease agreement only, not for anything that could be classified as normal wear and tear. 



Before you enforce your own rental policies, make sure that you know the law in your area. D.C. has more regulations than many other states, so it may be a good idea to double-check your lease agreement with a trusted attorney before you implement them. 

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