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Here Are Some Laws About Landlords You Might Not Know

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to dc@curbed.com.

The laws governing landlord-tenant relationships could fill a few volumes, so we're just presenting a few of them here. For example, did you know a landlord may evict a tenant for violating rules set forth in the lease, but the landlord must first give the tenant a written notice (generally called a "Notice to Cure or Vacate") that states the tenant has 30 days to correct the problem. Also, a lease cannot require a tenant to pay attorney fees and court costs in any court action. The judge decides who pays the court costs and tenants rarely have to pay their landlord's attorney fees.

It is against the law for the landlord to knowingly rent a property where there is evidence of mice living there. Someone needs to tell the landlords this because just about everyone who rents a house in the District will encounter mice (or evidence of them) at some point during the winter. It is almost like a rite of passage.

You cannot be evicted or asked to move just because your lease expires. Weird, huh? The terms of your expired lease continue to be in effect, but the amount you pay for rent may change if you get a valid 30 day notice of a rent increase. Your landlord must file this notice with the RACD. But, we would bet big money that most landlords don’t notify the officials every time they put the rent up, so don’t hold out hope of that happening.

It actually takes a while to get evicted given the legal procedures that drag on forever. The exception, however, is if the house has been used to manufacture or distribute drugs. DC has a fast track eviction process for that and the tenant rarely wins.

You can sue your landlord in the District of Columbia, Civil Division, if the estimated amount of your claim is $5,000 or greater. It takes approximately 2 to 3 months to get a hearing, and the cost for filing a lawsuit is $120.


Rental Accommodations and Conversion Division (RACD) of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, at (202) 442-4477.