You need to know your rights as a renter in Washington, D.C. because if the day comes when something doesn't feel right about your lease or about your landlord, you need to know how to fight back to make sure you're never royally screwed. To help you know how to help yourself, Curbed compiled a list of the top 10 facts you need to know about renting, from eviction to health code violations. If you've ever had a bad experience with your rights as a renter, feel free to leave a comment saying what happened and what others should do if they come across the same situation.
1. A landlord cannot evict you just because your lease is expired. For as long as you continue to pay rent, you can continue to stay in that apartment.
2. Did your rent increase? You can legally challenge that. Washington, D.C. has a rent-stabilization law that is meant to prevent any rent increases that are unfair in some way. One thing you should know is a landlord cannot raise the rent within 12 months of a previous rent increase. To challenge a rent increase, contact the D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate to check the legality of a rent increase.
3. Is your landlord refusing to refund your security deposit? Here is how you can get your money back. First, call the Rental Accommodations and Conversion Division (RACD) at (202) 442-4477 to ask for some help. Afterwards, take the landlord to Small Claims Court if your claim is less than $5,000. If you think your landlord is breaking the law in some way, call the RACD to file a tenant petition.
4. A room in a shared house can only be so small. A bedroom must be at least 70-square-feet for one tenant. For rooms used by at least two tenants, each tenant needs at least 50-square-feet. According to the RACD, up to two people are allowed in an efficiency, up to three people are allowed in a one bedroom unit, five people are allowed in a two-bedroom unit, and seven people are allowed in a three-bedroom unit.
5. Uh, oh. Did you mess up somewhere? And is your landlord trying to evict you because of it? If that's the case, the landlord legally has to give you 30 days to correct the problem. If within that time frame the problem is not corrected, the landlord can start eviction proceedings.
6. If there is mice in your unit, you need to contact your landlord. Landlords cannot rent a property if there is mice living there.
7. You can not only be charged for monthly rent, but also parking, amenities, move-in fees, and lock changes. You can also be charged for utilities, of course.
8. You cannot park overnight on the street for more than a few weeks if you do not have valid D.C. tags and registration. Exceptions to this rule include people who are in school or on a temporary employment basis.
9. According to the D.C. Tenant Survival Guide, your landlord is required to provide a "safe, habitable, and livable condition." This entails and is not limited to clean and crack-free flooring, water temperature that reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ability to control heat settings within the unit. If the paint in the unit is peeling, if there are huge holes in the walls or ceilings, or if there is flooding in the basement that is not taken care of, you as the tenant need to write out a list of the code violations. Once they are written, send the list to the landlord, resident manager, or rental office to request repairs. Be sure to keep a copy of the list. If there is no response, request a housing inspection by contacting the Housing Inspection Section of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs at (202) 442-4400.
10. If you want to rent in Washington, D.C., see what options you have for specific price points with Curbed DC's Curbed Comparisons. This weekly series shows what you can rent in the District for prices as low as $1,000/month to as high as $6,500/month.
· Washington, D.C. Tenant Survival Guide [D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate]
· The Biggest Surprises in D.C. Tenant Law [Curbed DC]
· Here Are Some Laws About Landlords You Might Not Know [Curbed DC]
· What You Need To Know If You Are Going To Rent In DC [Curbed DC]
· Renters Week 2015 coverage [Curbed DC]