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The biggest surprises in D.C. tenant law

From security deposits to rent increases to peeling paint

It's one of those rumors that's actually true: Tenant Laws in D.C. are quite favorable to tenants. But why is it so good to be a renter in D.C.? What laws exactly lean advantageously toward renters?

Curbed has scoured through the (pretty long) Tenant Survival Guide available on the D.C. government website to present some of the biggest surprises and best perks available to local renters. Below, see what you should stay aware of.

A landlord cannot sell housing without offering it to the renter first.

The renter living in the apartment gets first dibs if the landlord wants to sell or demolish the place. If the renter passes on this opportunity (because renters don't always have that kind of money!) and someone else wants to move in, the renter has three months to search for another spot.

Tenants can legally challenge rent increases.

Yes, really. There are tenant petition forms for that.

If a landlord has been cited for housing code violations in the past year, they must inform the renter before they move in.

This way they can't say the renter wasn't warned.

It's extremely hard to evict a tenant.

It can be done, especially if the tenant has gone several months without paying rent, but tenants can request a trial by jury or judge if faced with that threat. Also, if the tenant fixes their behavior (or whatever problem) within 30 days of receiving a mandatory "Notice to Vacate," the landlord will have to rescind that notice. Just don't lie on the leasing forms, okay?

Peeling paint is a big no-no.

This may seem minor but wooden walls, doors, and windows need an effective paint job.

Walkways can't be gross.

The grass has to be trimmed, waterproof trashcans are a requirement, and any dirt, litter, rats, or insects on the walkways have to go. Good luck with that insect part.

Tenants are required to receive their security deposit back if they haven't torn up the place.

Yeah, if there's a hole in the wall the size of a MacBook Pro, then the landlord is going to keep whatever's needed to fix said hole. See also: broken furnishings and water damaged floors. But landlords have to tell departing renters the status of the deposit within 45 days. Plus, if the cautious and conscientious renter has been there for over a year, they can get back the entire amount with interest.

The rooms (bathrooms included) cannot be at Arctic temperatures.

Well, hey, if you want to house penguins in your bathtub that's on you, but if the building doesn't have a thermostat that the renter has access to, the landlord has to be able to keep all rooms at no less than 68 degrees.

Tenant Survival Guide [Office of the Tenant Advocate]