The Eviction Process in Washington, D.C.
In the District of Columbia, landlords and tenants should know their rights and obligations before and during the eviction process, or risk serious legal damages. D.C. Code §42–3505.01 outlines landlord and tenant eviction rights in D.C.. As D.C. has specific guidelines concerning evictions, a landlord is not able to remove a tenant’s belongings, change the locks, or turn off the property’s utilities without proper cause, notice, and a court order evicting the tenant. At the same time, however, tenants cannot simply stop paying their landlord rent or utilities. Below are the four steps of eviction in Washington, D.C.
Provide Notice to Tenants
While the D.C. code outlines many specific causes that would allow a landlord to evict a tenant, the two most common reasons for eviction are not paying rent and failure to comply with obligations outlined in the lease. If the tenant does not pay rent or breaks the obligations in the lease, the landlord must send the tenant a Written Notice. If after this notice and the tenant does not fix the specified issue, the landlord may file the eviction.
- Failure to Pay Rent: If the tenant does not pay rent, the landlord must provide the tenant with a 30-day notice to pay the rent in full. The only exception to this rule is if the tenant waives this right when they sign the lease. If the tenant does not pay the rent within these 30-days, the landlord may bring the eviction to court.
- Failure to Comply with Correctable Lease Obligations: If a tenant goes against the lease agreement, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-day notice to fix the issue. Further, this notice has to layout the violation and cannot be waived by the tenant before they sign the lease. Similar to the situation above, if the tenant does not fix the violation within 30-days, the landlord can take their case to the court.
- Failure to Comply with Non-Correctable Lease Obligations: As the tenant cannot fix the issue, the landlord can immediately begin the eviction process.
Service of Eviction
The next step in the eviction process after the 30-day written notice expires is for the landlord to file an eviction lawsuit in the D.C. court system. After this point, the landlord must give the tenant a complaint that states the time and date of the initial eviction hearing. If the tenant does not show up to court on this date, and the court makes a judgment, the landlord must file a “Notice to Tenant of Payment Required to Avoid Eviction” with the ruling from the court, which the court will then mail to the tenant.
The tenant can avoid eviction by paying the full amount they owe any time up until the U.S. Marshall comes to remove the tenant. Finally, the tenant will receive an official eviction notice which will be given to them after the court orders a “judgment for possession” for the landlord. If however, the tenant does show up for the specified court date, the judge will hear both the landlord and tenant on issues regarding the eviction.
Once you are in court, it is useful to know what happens during the initial hearing, the trial, and the judgement.
- Initial Hearing:
- Roll Call: At your initial hearing—that will have a set date given in the complaint—the sitting judge starts by checking that all relevant parties are present. If the tenant does not come to court, the court will rule in favor of the landlord. However, if the landlord fails to show up at the hearing, the court will throw the case out and the landlord will have to start the process over.
- Opportunity to Settle: Once the roll call is complete, the judge will give the parties the ability to settle. If a settlement is what both parties would like to pursue, they can either agree to a “Consent Judgement” or a “Settlement Agreement.”
- Unable to Settle: If a settlement is out of the question, the judge will hear from both parties to figure out if the case requires a trial. If there is a dispute of facts that the judge finds to be valid, the judge will then state a date for the trial.
- Trail: If the entities involved in the dispute are sent to trial, each party will have the opportunity to present their evidence and then the judge can resolve the dispute.
- Judgment: The landlord will win the case if the tenant does not show up to the initial hearing, breaks the consent of the agreement, or loses the trial. After the judgment for the landlord, the actual process of eviction will begin.
If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the landlord must file a “Writ of Eviction” with the court at least 2 days after the judgment, which then becomes active 3 days after filing. The tenant will receive a copy of this notice and will state the day they will be formally evicted. Additionally, this notice gives the landlord, who is in the company of a U.S. Marshal the right to remove the tenant and their belongings from the property. If the eviction is based on missed payments, they can nullify the eviction with payment in full any time before they are evicted.
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 the eviction process in Washington, D.C., 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.