District of Columbia Rental Laws

Last updated on September 27, 2016 by

Flag of Washington DCThis article summarizes some key District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) Landlord-Tenant laws applicable to residential rental units.

The Official State Statutes and other reputable municipal sources were used to research this information.  All sources are cited appropriately.

With that said, landlord-tenant laws are always changing and you have a responsibility to perform your own research when applying the laws to your unique situation.

If you have a legal question or concern, I only recommend contacting a licensed attorney referral service that is operated by the state bar association.

Official Rules, Regulations and Guides

Security Deposit:

  • Security Deposit Maximum: One month’s rent (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.2)
  • Restriction on Deposit: If the tenant has occupied a unit since July 17, 1985, and no deposit was collected then, a landlord shall not demand or receive a security deposit now. (D.C. Code § 42-3502.17)
  • Security Deposit Interest:
    • Landlord is required to earn interest for the tenant on any security deposit for tenancies with a duration of 12 months or more. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 311.2)
    • Landlord must deposit the security deposit into an interest bearing escrow account, for the sole purposes of holding such deposits, with a financial institution in the District of Columbia within 30 days of receipt. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.3)
    • At the end of every year, the landlord shall disclose where the tenants’ security deposits are held and what the prevailing rate was for each 6-month period over the past year. At the termination of tenancy, the housing provider must pay the accrued interest to the tenant and shall also list the interest rate for each 6-month period during the tenancy. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.7).
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: Yes, deposited into an escrow or separate account within 30 days of receipt (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.4). The owner of more than one residential building may establish one (1) escrow account for holding security deposits or other payments by the tenants of those buildings. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.5)
  • Pet Deposits and Additional Fees: No Statute
  • Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 45 days to return deposit (and interest) or notify tenant of withholdings. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.1).  Landlord has 30 days after sending notice of withholdings to refund the remaining deposit. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.2)
  • Require Written Description / Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.2)
  • Require Advanced Notice of Deposit Withholdings: No Statute
  • Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No Statute
  • Receipt of Deposit: Required. The owner shall provide written receipts for all monies paid by the tenant as rent, security, or otherwise, unless the payment is made by personal check, and is to include the exact amount received, the date the monies are received, and the purpose of the payment. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 306)
  • Failure to Comply: If the landlord fails to comply with the statutes regarding security deposits (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.1 and § 309.2), the tenant is entitled to a full return of deposit, including interest as provided in D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.11, and landlord may incur a civil fine of not more than $ 5000 for each violation.

Lease, Rent & Fees:

  • Rent Is Due: No Statute
  • Rent Increase Notice: Landlord must file a notice with the RACD. Additional guidance is provided in D.C. Code § 42-3502.22.
  • Rent Grace Period: No Statute
  • Late Fees: No Statute
  • Prepaid Rent: No Statute
  • Returned Check Fees: No Statute
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): No Statute
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes, but only for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of smoke detectors/alarms. (D.C. Code Ann. §§ 6-751.10)
  • Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney Fees: Yes (D.C. Code § 11-1321)
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Rerent: No Statute

Notices and Entry:

  • Notice of Non-renewal – Lease with a Fixed Term: No notice is needed as the lease simply expires. (D.C. Code § 42-3201)
  • Notice of Non-renewal – Quarterly Lease: 30 days (D.C. Code § 42-3202)
  • Notice of Non-renewal – Month-to-Month Lease: 30 days (D.C. Code § 42-3202)
  • Notice of Date/Time of Move-Out Inspection: The owner may inspect the dwelling unit within three (3) days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, before or after the termination of the tenancy. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 310.1) The owner shall notify the tenant in writing, at least 10 days before the inspection, of the time and date of the inspection. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 310.3/4)
  • Notice of Termination for Nonpayment: 30 days notice to pay or move-out. Landlord can file for eviction after 30 days. (D.C. Code § 42-3505.01) (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 4301)
  • Termination for Lease Violation: 30 days notice to remedy the violation or move-out. Landlord can file for eviction after 30 days. (D.C. Code § 42-3505.01 (b)(c)) (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 4301)
  • Unconditional Quit Termination: Landlord is allowed to unconditionally terminate the lease if a court has determined that the tenant has performed an illegal act within the rental unit. (D.C. Code § 42-3505.01(c)) (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 4301)
  • Month-to-Month after Fixed Lease: As the tenant continues to pay the rent to which the housing provider is entitled for the rental unit, the tenant may continue to occupy the dwelling in a month-to-month capacity. (D.C. Code § 42-3505.01(a))
  • Required Notice before Entry for Any Reason: No Statute, but at least 24 hours notice is recommended.
  • Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: No Statute
  • Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: No Statute
  • Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No Statue
  • Lockouts Allowed: No (Simpson v. Lee, 499 A.2d 889 (1985))
  • Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No Statute (Simpson v. Lee, 499 A.2d 889 (1985))

Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:

  • Refusal to surrender possession; double rent: If the tenant, after having given notice of his intention to quit as aforesaid, shall refuse, without reasonable excuse, to surrender possession according to such notice, he shall be liable to the landlord for rent at double the rate of rent payable according to the terms of tenancy for all the time that the tenant shall so wrongfully hold over, to be recovered in the same way as the rent accruing before the termination of the tenancy.  (D.C. Code § 42-3207)
  • Notice to Tenants of Housing Code Provisions: At the start of each tenancy, the landlord shall provide to the tenant, a copy of Chapter 3: Landlord and Tenant laws found in D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 3. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 300)
  • Copy of the Lease: The owner shall provide to the tenant upon execution (or within seven (7) days after execution) an exact, legible, completed copy of any agreement or application which the tenant has signed. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 303.1 )
  • Disclosure of Terms: For each security deposit or other payment, the landlord shall clearly state in the lease or agreement, or on the receipt for the deposit or other payment, the terms and conditions under which the payment was made. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.6)
  • Domestic Violence Situations:
    • Proof of Status: Landlord is entitled to verify claim of domestic violence status. (D.C. Code § 42-3505.07)
    • Termination of Lease: If a tenant gives a landlord at least 14 days’ written notice, and proof of the claim, the landlord shall release the tenant from the rental agreement. The request must be made within 90 days of the reported act of domestic violence. (D.C. Code § 42-3505.07)
    • Locks: Landlords must change the locks if requested by a domestic violence victim.  The landlord shall pay for the initial cost of the expense, but shall be reimbursed by the tenant within 45 days. (D.C. Code § 42-3505.08)
  • Retaliation: Landlord must not terminate a lease, refuse to renew a lease, or lower/discontinue services to a tenant who has filed an official complaint to a Government Authority, has been involved in a tenant’s organization, or as asserted his or her rights in good faith. (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 307). Retaliation is assumed if landlord takes action on tenant within 6 months after tenant exercises any of these rights. (D.C. Code § 42-3505.02)

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84 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Octavia

    I recently received a housing voucher to move to Prince George’s County. I am currently renting an apartment in DC and want to break my lease. I contacted the rental office and they said they needed 2 months rent in advance to break my lease….is that legal?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi there

      You’ll need to talk to a lawyer if you want legal advice. But what I can tell you is that a 2 month early termination fee is very very very common.

      • Al Edmondson

        I personally wouldn’t listen to Lucas even in his statute quotes.. I was browsing them and even some of those are obsolete.. I find that these little know it all, typically white, preppy types have their degrees from your favorite name dropping schools and they like to blog but really don’t know the subject matter well enough to blow snot in a kleenex.. As a person who literally hangs out in Landlord Tenant court and has had countless occurances with all sorts of these situations with landlords and tenants, I say seek a season attorney with specific practice of landlord tenant law.. mainly because they give me grief if ever i sought to help tenants like I can… not bragging but I know the stuff.. But Lucas is out of his league…at best.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Al,

          Thanks for voicing your opinion. But why do you have to bring race into this? You don’t know me or my experience. This forum is a place for folks to share opinions, to get encouragement, and look into statutes, and we never claim to give legal advice.

          If you actually want to help the folks here, let me know what out-of-date statutes you are referring to, and we can update this page. If you’re just looking to pull people down, please go somewhere else.

  • anisa bunn

    My landlord installed a video camera with audio outside of my apartment. The camera faces directly onto the seating area of my porch, the entrance to my apartment and the front windows of my apartment.This was done without my knowledge or notification a week ago. During that time ive had several private conversations recorded as well as recordings of me changing clothes without my knowledge. I feel completely violated. What can I do to put a stop to this?

    • Ricahrd

      I currently own a unit in Washington DC. My agent for Travelers Insurance says that my tenants must have rental insurance.

      My property management agent, Long and Foster, says that it is not legal in Washington DC to require this of tenants? So they are not pursuing this with my tenant.

      Can you advise on this?

      • Lucas Hall

        Hi Richard,

        My suggestion is to not take legal advice from a property manager unless they are also a lawyer. Generally speaking, you can make renter’s insurance a requirement of the lease in the same way that you can require them to clean the carpets before they move out.

        If Travelers requires your tenants to have insurance in order to insure your rental property, then you either need to do it, or switch to a different insurance company.

  • MJ Sloan

    I had a conversation with my LL about gaining access. He gave me all copies of the keys upon signing the lease to the condo. We had a miscommunication about timing for him to arrive to make a repair, he then demanded copies of the keys. I refused and he wants to evict me. Does he have legal ground to evict me? Do I have a legal obligation to provide him a key to access the apartment? What are his rights? What are my rights?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi MJ

      Generally speaking, a landlord has the right to access the unit with proper notice. After all, it’s their property. That’s the whole point of the “proper notice” laws. My suggestion to you would be to give your landlord a copy of the keys.

      For your legal rights, check out the links above or talk to a lawyer – which I’m not.

  • Juan

    I am renting my unit and the heat went out at night. I fixed it in less than 24 hours, but my tenants did have to go to a hotel. They send me the bill for the one night stay; is it written in the regulations that the landlord would have to pay for this? Any help appreciated. Thanks.

  • Sharon

    I have a tenant that pays her rent late every month. Her lease is up Aug. 2016. Can I let her know now that I plan not to renew her lease and that she has to leave by July 30, 2016. Also there is some damage to the rental property where I plan to use the security deposit to cover it. Advise

  • Marlon Ward

    I’m renting my brothers place and have experienced nothing but issues.. I have No Air, the power in my kitchen just went out and I lost all my groceries.. A technician was called and found out someone in the building was stealing electric – and when he touched the wires EVERYTHING cut off on my side of the building… Now I’ve been staying at a family members place until everything is resolved.. My landlord is doing Nothing about the problem.. Can I prorate my rent this month?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Marlon,

      I don’t suggest you take action into your own hands. Generally speaking, a tenant can only withhold rent if the landlord is failing to provide general services and has been given proper notice to fix it. In this case, the loss of power is no different than if a storm came through and knocked out the power. Circumstances behind your landlords control has caused the issue, and to be honest, I don’t think your landlord can do much about it. The building manager or owner is responsible for fixing the electrical.

      In reality, personal property is not something your landlord is responsible for. It’s really something that should be covered by your rental insurance. If you didn’t buy renter’s insurance, then you’re on your own. With that said, you could see if you Landlord will pay for the food anyway.

      Good luck. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • James Ayers

    Can’t find reading on at will

  • Patricia Mada

    I moved to DC recently and now have family that wants to visit. A family of 5 wants to stay with me for < 1 week. Is that okay? Would that be some sort of violation?

  • Brenda Anderson

    I recently received a job offer in Philadelphia and I just signed a 20 month lease in February. I don’t want to miss the opportunity but I also don’t know how my landlord is going to ask. This is my second 20 month lease with this landlord. What are my options here?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Brenda,

      Your options are:
      1. Abandon the lease and risk ruining your credit. When he finds a replacement, you would be off the hook (but not until then).
      2. Negotiate the lease termination with your landlord (you may have to buy your way out of the contract)
      3. Ask if he’ll let you find a qualified replacement to take over the lease, or sign a new one (you must get permission).
      4. Ask if you can find a subletter, at a higher rate, and let him keep the profit. (get permission first).

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • ella johnson

    thanks

  • Molly

    We are renting a home, the homeowner stated she wants to refinance her home for a lower rate, but when the inspectors come we have to put our things up because they think she still lives there. Her mail still comes there also. How do we find out if she is allowed to rent the house out in the first place? I have looked at our lease and notice she haven’t signed it only we did. When we first found the place she had a “property manager ” then 2 month into living there “the property manager” calls and said he quit and good luck with the landlord. What the hell is going on? Please help if you can. By the way I’m in dc

  • Hassan

    A landlord in DC is offering an office in his building for a fair daily rate that I could use for a year or more. He claims that since its a daily rate, it will be regulated under hospitality law instead of the law of commercial leases. Is that true? Is it smart to get into a lease like this?

  • robert

    where do i go for help in getting my landlord.management company to act quicker as it relates to a rodent problem i’ve been having in my apartment?

  • Jane Smith

    Are there DC regulation limits on how much a condo association can charge the landlord for airbnb-ing? Is so, where can I find those? The tenant did airbnb, not the landlord and there was nothing in the lease between the tenant and landlord about short term rentals. Thanks for your help!

  • Natalie

    If I have an approved application but haven’t submitted the deposit yet, can the owner/landlord give the apartment away to someone else?

  • Jonathan

    What are reasonable lease application fees (per adult)? Are there any legal restrictions on these fees?

  • Sean

    Are landlords responsible for outdoor pest control (I.e. mosquitoes) if it is not specifically agreed upon in the lease agreement?

  • Charles

    Hi Lucas,

    I live in an apartment building in Washington, D.C. My next door neighbors moved in last fall were very quiet in the beginning. Since January they have moved several people and children into the unit illegally. They never play loud music, however, the adults talk loud screaming or playing with the children as if they are on a playground. I reported it to my landlord. At first my landlord stated, it was hard to prove the unit was overcrowded with people not being on a lease. A older tenant admitted to the police he have move others into his unit. My landlord is sending a notice to cure or quit for many reasons this week. Can you explain what a cure or quit notice mean in the District of Columbia regarding bad tenants?

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