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What You Need To Know If You Are Going To Rent In DC

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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

I'm trying to find a place to rent in the District. What do I need to do first?
Make sure you have 2-3 references lined up ready to talk to the landlord or property manager. Even though it is basically a formality (because who would put down bad references?) it is a very common practice for landlords to do their due diligence. Must be all the lawyers in this town. Apartment buildings may also require a credit check, and they might charge you a fee for running it. If you can do it yourself through one of the free services and provide the apartment building with the paperwork that can save you some money. Some people also feel safer getting their own credit check done and handing over the paperwork so that they don’t have to give a bunch of people their social security number.

I saw an ad for a room in a shared house but I think it used to be a closet. Can they really rent rooms that are that small?
Well, no, there are laws about how small a sleeping space can be and how many people can be crammed into a house. Beware of this happening, however, all over the DC area. Landlords will try to get as many people in as little square footage as possible. One way they might try to overcome the occupancy limit is by having two separate leases, one for the upstairs and one for the downstairs tenants.

Here is the occupancy law copied from the website:

“At least 70 square feet is required for each room used for sleeping by one tenant over 1 year old. For rooms used by 2 or more tenants for sleeping, there must be at least 50 square feet for each tenant. Under the D.C. Human Rights Act (not the Housing Code), it may be considered unlawful discrimination if a landlord tries to evict a family with children in order to limit the number of tenants living in the apartment. For purposes of the Human Rights Act, in general up to 2 persons are allowed in an efficiency, 3 persons in a one bedroom, 5 persons in a two bedroom, and 7 persons in a three bedroom.”

Rental Accommodations and Conversion Division (RACD) of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.