…and now landlords like you have a more complex legal landscape to navigate.
By Scott Bloom
The information shared in this article is accurate as of Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.
With the end of the public health emergency in Washington, D.C. the last thing you might be thinking is, “I wonder what this means for my rental property?” The D.C. City Council enacted legislation during the pandemic, and you need to know about these regulations as a rental owner.
The legal answers to that question turn out to be quite complex and well worth understanding before taking any action with your renters, including announcing rent increases during the remainder of 2021. I recently learned about updates to D.C. tenant law and the phasing out of the eviction moratorium, and I wanted to share this important information with you.
Below is an overview with some key details as recently discussed by Landlord Tenant Attorney Richard Bianco from RJB Law. Much of what you will read below comes from his expertise in this area of the law, so we gratefully acknowledge his work.
First, despite the expiration of the eviction moratorium in October 2021, nothing is set in stone. The D.C. City Council can put the eviction moratorium back into place. As actual evictions increase, stakeholders will pressure the D.C. Council to take action as more people are displaced. Bianco asserts that at this point, it is best to take a wait-and-see approach.
The Eviction Moratorium has Expired.
Evictions started up again in October of this year. By December, it is expected the U.S. Marshals will be finished with the backlog of writs issued prior to pandemic and start scheduling eviction dates filed during the pandemic. Below are four key elements every D.C. landlord needs to know:
1. Required Notices and Compliance
- A 30-day notice is now required for informing a tenant of an upcoming eviction. Pre-pandemic, landlords were required to give only 21-days’ notice of a scheduled eviction. The content of the notice is largely set forth in the law, and it must be provided in all three of the following ways:
- Electronically (phone, text, or email),
- U.S. Mail, and
- Post the door
- On the day of the eviction and after the locks are changed, now a new posting must be placed on the door. Again, the content of the notice is largely set by law
- Before you file an eviction case in court, you are now required to send the tenant a new 30 day “Notice of Intent.” This new notice is required in addition to a “Notice to Quit”, however, providing an additional 30-days prior to the “Notice to Quit” for a tenant to act.
As of October 2021, Landlords can now issue notices of unpaid rent with the following caveats.
- Presently, the law requires a landlord to serve the tenant with a 60 day notice of delinquent rent before filing an eviction case. Landlords must do this even if the lease contains a waiver of the tenant’s right to receive a notice to quit in cases of nonpayment of rent. Additionally, before filing an eviction case the landlord must file a STAY DC application and pursue assistance. If a landlord does not take this step the case, once filed, will be dismissed. This change adds substantial time to the process to bring a tenant in front of a judge for non-payment of rent.
- Tenants who receive a “Notice to Quit” will be encouraged to file a STAY DC application and pursue it in order to retain successful occupancy. DC Code 3505.01 (b-1)(2)
- Landlords cannot file an eviction case if the tenant owes less than $600.
- Cases other than non-payment of rent can be filed beginning on January 1, 2022 after expiration of the relevant notice to quit or notice to correct or vacate. Provided that if the tenant commits certain violations which threaten the health and safety of residents or serious property damage, the case can be filed before January 1, if the appropriate notice expires without the tenant curing the violation. However, these landlord actions are tough cases to prove and in practice, must be what would be considered “extreme”—such as drug use or a firearm-related crime.
2. Payment Plans
Payment plans must be offered to tenants in danger of eviction in order for landlords to be compliant with the law. Tenants who are behind on rent can avoid court or judgement against them by affirming that s/he will agree to abide by the terms of the payment plan. That would mean the tenant would have twelve months to pay off the overdue rent (plus keep current on monthly rent payments). The kicker is that the tenant has the right – up to the day of eviction – to state that he or she wishes to sign a payment plan. These payment plans can include rent and other charges such as utilities.
3. Emergency Stays
Emergency Stays are not uncommon and can impede a landlord’s ability to begin renting to a paying tenant. Various parties have been aggressively filing emergency stays and even proactively contacting tenants who are on the court docket for non-payment cases. Regardless of the circumstances leading to them being in court, these stays filed by unrelated third party advocacy organizations will cause delays to obtain a writ for eviction. Be aware that the landlord tenant court will often find in favor of the tenant despite the tenant’s inability to pay the rent.
September 2021, landlords are able to start issuing/serving notices including lease violations, 90-day notices to take back possession for personal use and the like, as per the Rental Housing Act (RHA) and against non-RHA occupants, including squatters.
October 2021, landlords are able to file in court again for the first time since the Public Health Emergency started for non-payment of rent. In order to have the case considered, a housing provider now must have:
- An active business license for their rental (BBL)
- Ensure all notices were served correctly
- Encourage the tenant to file an application with STAY DC program
- Offer a payment plan to the tenant
- If a tenant’s primary language is not English nor Spanish, a landlord’s “Notice to Quit” must be translated into that tenant’s language.
NOTE: If anything during filing for court was missing or done incorrectly, a landlord now risks having to start the entire process over. Filing a non-payment of rent case in landlord-tenant court is now so complex, a housing provider is practically forced to hire a specialized attorney to make sure everything is done correctly within the right notice period, etc.
By introducing additional, unrelated requirements, these additional hurdles in the bullets above hurt housing providers who just need assistance from the courts to collect the rent due.
December 31, 2021
- Rental increases will not be legal for residential and commercial leases in Washington, D.C., until Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.
- RJB Law recommends that landlords do not send a notice of rent increase until this date because they can be subject to treble damages and attorney fees if a landlord does not follow the law.
- RJB Law recommends that if a landlord does wish to raise the rent on a property, to provide a 30-day notice of a rent increase to their tenants on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 for a start date of February 1, 2022 (provided they are on a month to month rental basis).
January 1, 2022
- All other filings, including getting squatters out of properties, will be permitted. No notice will be required for unauthorized occupants.
July 25, 2022
- Payment Plan Program requirement extends until this date. Specifics of the plan are how much they owe, payable in 12-month equal payments. Cannot file for non-payment of rent until tenants on a Payment Plan miss two payments.
For more information: Rich@lawrjb.com and (202) 461-2400. https://lawrjb.com has many more resources you can use. You can learn much more about Bianco’s business here, and at the bottom of this article. He has given Columbia Property Management the permission to reprint several elements of a recent presentation he gave called “Guide to End of the Eviction Moratorium.”
Scott Bloom, Owner and Senior Property Manage
Columbia Property Management
Scott Bloom founded Columbia Property Management (CPM) in 2012. And today, he is both the owner and senior property manager. CPM’s goal is to provide a powerful, personal level of service to our clients. We focus on smaller landlords, professionally managing their assets, so they can succeed by investing in rental real estate. Scott is an active member in multiple professional organizations including the National Association of Residential Property Managers.