Seven Important D.C. Eviction Laws

Legal Article

Seven Important D.C. Eviction Laws

Understanding eviction laws are extremely important for both landlords and tenants in Washington, D.C. For landlords, knowing eviction laws is key to create more effective leases and rules for their tenants. However, tenants also benefit from knowing these laws so that they cannot be evicted unfairly. Below are the seven most important D.C. eviction both tenants and landlords should know.

Highly Specific Reasons

The District of Columbia only allows landlords to evict tenants for highly specific reasons. These reasons most commonly include:

  • Not paying rent
  • Participating in illegal activities — including drug-related activities — in the unit
  • Violation of the lease that is not corrected when the tenant is informed/reminded of the violation. This might include:
    • Excessive noise
    • Using the property for purposes not stated in the lease
    • Subletting the property outside the terms set forth by the lease
    • Keeping pets in the property when the lease specifies no pets
  • The landlord has a change of plans for the property, including:
    • Planning to inhabit it himself 
    • Renovating the property 
    • Turning the property into a condominium
    • Tearing down the property
    • Selling the property to a new owner who plans to live in the property
    • No longer using the property as rental housing

In D.C., landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants outside of the above reasons. Further, landlords must not evict tenants for their religion, race, other personal criteria, or remove a tenant who follows the terms of the lease unless the landlord has changed their plans for the property. If the landlord does change their plans for the property, they must provide the tenant with adequate notice of their intentions so the tenants can find new housing.

Must use the Judicial Process for Eviction

If a landlord does evict a tenant, the landlord has to utilize the judicial process for eviction. This judicial process requires the landlord to send an initial written Notice of Eviction as well as a court order. The only case where a landlord does not have to include a written Notice of Eviction is if the tenant does not pay rent and the tenant waived the right to a written Notice of Eviction prior to signing the lease.

If a tenant is evicted, they may be legally responsible for the fees the landlord faces that were a direct result of having to evict the tenant. However, as most tenants are evicted because they do not pay rent, they may not have the funds available to pay for these legal fees, back rent, and other costs associated with the eviction. Thus, most landlords factor the cost of evictions into their monthly budget for the rental property.

In some cases, landlords will try to take matters into their own hands when removing a tenant. For example, a landlord may try to evict the tenant by changing the locks so that the tenant cannot enter the property again. Another common self-help eviction idea landlords have is to forcibly evict a tenant by removing the tenant’s personal property from the premises. Landlords do not have the legal rights to complete either of these actions. Thus, if a tenant believes the landlord is performing a self-help eviction, they should contact the police immediately.   

Tenants can Legally Correct a Lease Violation Prior to Eviction

In the District of Columbia, tenants have the legal right to fix a lease violation before they are evicted. For example, say a lease says no pets, but the tenant has a dog, or the lease requires the tenant to cut the grass on the property, yet they have not completed this responsibility for a month. While a violation of the lease may be grounds for eviction, the tenant must receive notice of that violation before they can be evicted. Further, the tenant must also be given an adequate amount of time to fix this violation before being evicted. Using our two examples above, the tenant must be given the ability to get rid of their pet or begin mowing the grass before being evicted. If the tenant does remedy the lease violation, the landlord can no longer evict the tenant.

Tenants Have Until the Eviction to Make Full Payment

If the reason why the tenant is being evicted is that they have not paid rent, the tenant has until the eviction is executed to make full payment and avoid eviction. The amount of money the tenant will owe the landlord is up to the courts. However, if the tenant makes this payment in full prior to the eviction date, this payment can stop the eviction and allow the tenant to stay at the property. After this, the tenant should make every effort to pay the rent on time.

Tenants Owe Landlords Past-Due Rent Even After Eviction

An eviction notice does not absolve past-due rent for the tenant. Thus, if a tenant owes rent, they will still owe this rent after the eviction. Additionally, unpaid rent is likely to show up on your credit report, making it more difficult for you to find future housing. The landlord is also able to pursue collections for unpaid rent and interest according to the terms of the lease. Finally, before signing the lease, the tenant should read this document to avoid penalties for fees associated with late rent.

Landlords Must give 30 Days’ Notice Before Eviction

The Written Notice a landlord will give a tenant must give the tenant at least 30 days to vacate the property. However, in other instances, the landlord must provide 180 days to leave. It is important to know that landlords cannot require a tenant to leave the property before the notice is over, tough tenants can vacate the property before the end of the notice on their own.

Final Thoughts

With over 20 years of experience, Antonoplos & Associates real estate attorneys have the knowledge and experience required to assist clients with real estate litigation in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Furthermore, our attorneys have a strong background in real estate, construction law, and business law. Thus, we can assist clients with a variety of real estate litigation issues.

Contact Our DC Law Office for More Information

Finally, for more information regarding important eviction laws, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding real estate law, check out our blog.