District of Columbia Rental Laws

Written on February 14, 2014 by , updated on January 2, 2018

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:

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)

Court Related:

Business Licenses:

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