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BEST Landlord Tenant & Eviction Lawyer Washington DC

Landlord and tenant laws in Washington D.C. or the District of Columbia provide tenants with the friendliest laws in the United States. A tenant with a good lawyer may prevent the mightiest landlord from evicting him from his restaurant, bar, business, office or home.

The D.C. Superior Court's LandLord Tenant Court requires a very knowledgeable lawyer. The Nawash Law Office fully understands the LandLord Tenant Court in Washington, D.C.

The Nawash Law Office provides comprehensive legal services beyond what is offered by many other landlord and tenant lawyers.

Call us before you lose your business or get evicted. We can prevent or stop evictions in most cases. Call at 202-776-7191.

202-776-7191.

UNDERSTANDING LANDLORD TENANT LAW IN WASHINGTON DC.

The tenant-landlord relationship is established by contract, which gives both the tenant and the landlord certain rights and obligations.

Important to understand the following in the District of Columbia:

1. LEASE: A written lease is not required to establish a tenancy. If there is one, the landlord must provide you with a copy of the lease and all addendums. The landlord must also provide you with copies of certain District housing regulations, including those for Landlord & Tenant relations. Certain lease clauses are prohibited, including waiver of landlord liability for failing to properly maintain the property. The landlord may not change the terms of your lease without your agreement. After the initial lease term expires, you have the right to continue your tenancy month-to-month, on the same terms, indefinitely. (14 D.C.M.R. §§ 101, 106 & 300-399)

2. SECURITY DEPOSIT: The landlord must place your security deposit in an interest-bearing account. The landlord must post notices stating where the security deposit is held and the prevailing interest rate. Within 45 days after you vacate the apartment, the landlord must either return your security deposit with interest, or provide you with written notice that the security deposit will be used to defray legitimate expenses. The landlord must notify you of the date and time of the "move-out" inspection. (14 D.C.M.R. §§ 308-311)

3. DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION: Upon receiving your application to lease an apartment, the landlord must disclose: (a) the applicable rent for the rental unit; (b) any pending petition that could affect the rent; (c) any surcharges on the rent and the date those surcharges expire; (d) the rent control or exempt status of the rental accommodation; (e)certain housing code violation reports; (f) the amount of any non-refundable application fee, security deposit, and interest rate; (g) any pending condo or coop conversion; and (h) ownership information in the registration form and the business license. The landlord must make this information accessible to you throughout your tenancy. Upon the tenant's request once per year, the landlord must also disclose the amount of, and the basis for, each rent increase for the prior 3 years. (D.C. Official Code § 42-3502.22)

4. RECEIPTS FOR RENTAL PAYMENTS: The landlord must provide you with a receipt for any money paid, except where the payment is made by personal check and is in full satisfaction of all amounts due. The receipt must state the purpose and the date of the payment, as well as the amount of any money that remains due. (14 D.C.M.R. § 306)

5. RENT CONTROL: Unless the unit is exempt from rent control, the landlord may not raise the rent: (a) unless owner and manager are properly licensed and registered; (b) unless the premises substantially complies with the housing code; (c) more frequently than once every 12 months; (d) by more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for an elderly or disabled tenant; (e) by more than the CPI + 2% for all other tenants. Any rent increase larger than (d) or (e) requires Rent Administrator approval of a landlord petition. You are entitled to receive a copy of, and you may challenge, any landlord rent increase petition. You may also challenge any rent increase implemented within the prior 3 years.

6. BUILDING CONDITIONS: The landlord must ensure that your unit and all common areas are safe and sanitary as of the first day of your tenancy.

7. QUIET ENJOYMENT: The landlord may make any necessary repairs, but the landlord may not unreasonably interfere with your "quiet enjoyment" of the premises. (D.C. Official Code § 42-3402.10)

8. RELOCATION ASSISTANCE: If you are displaced by a substantial renovation or rehabilitation, demolition, or the discontinuance of the housing use, you have the right to receive relocation assistance from your landlord. (D.C. Official Code § 42-3507)

9. EVICTION: The landlord may evict you only for one of ten specific reasons set forth in Title V of the Rental Housing Act of 1985. For example, you may not be evicted just because your lease term expires, or because the rental property has been foreclosed upon. Even if there is a valid basis to evict you, the landlord may not use "self-help" methods to do so, such as cutting off your utilities or changing the locks. Rather, the landlord must go through the judicial process. You must be given a written Notice to Vacate (except for non-payment of rent where you waived right to notice in your lease); an opportunity to cure the lease violation, if that is the basis for the action; and an opportunity to challenge the landlord's claims in court. Finally, any eviction must be pursuant to a court order, and must be scheduled and supervised by the U.S. Marshal Service. (D.C. Official Code § 42-3505.01)

What makes a person a tenant?

In general, if a person has paid rent or has agreed to pay rent to live somewhere, then that person is a tenant.

  • This is true even if the person is only using part of a house or apartment, such as when a person is sleeping on your couch.
  • Rent is usually money. A person can also "pay" rent by doing work or giving things to the person they are renting from.

If a person has never paid money, done work for you, or given you something of value AND they never agreed to do any of those things, then he or she is probably not a tenant. However, if a person has agreed to pay, do work, or give you something of value in exchange for living in your home, they may be considered a tenant even if they have never done anything to keep this agreement.

  • For example, if someone promised to pay you $500 per month to sleep in your spare room, that person may be a tenant even if he or she never paid even $1 in rent since they moved in.

Can someone be a tenant even if there is no written lease?

Yes. An agreement to rent a property does not need to be in writing.

  • A person can become a tenant through a verbal agreement.
  • A person can become a tenant based on the way he or she acts and how the other person responds. For example, if a person gives the owner money on a regular basis and the owner accepts it, that might create a landlord-tenant relationship.

What if we have a written agreement that says that the person living in my house is NOT a tenant?

That type of agreement can be helpful. But, if the person is paying rent, he or she may still be considered a tenant, no matter what the agreement says. The court would look at what is really happening, not just what the person was called in the lease.

What if we have a written agreement that says that a person is a tenant only for a certain amount of time and that time is now over?

In this case you will still need to file a lawsuit in landlord tenant court. This is true even if the time in the agreement is now over.

The person I want to evict is a co-tenant on my lease. Is that person a tenant or something else?

If you and another person are co-tenants on the lease because you both signed the lease as tenants, you will both have an equal right to live in the property. Co-tenants usually cannot evict each other, even if one of the co-tenants stops paying the rent or is violating the lease that they both signed.

Can I lock a Tenant out and put the guest's property on the street?

The safest way to remove a guest from your property is to use the court process. There are several reasons why it may be a bad idea to use self-help eviction to remove a guest from your home.

  • You may be risking your personal safety if the guest becomes angry or violent during or after the eviction.
  • If the police need to be called because the eviction is causing a disturbance, they may stop the eviction and direct you to let the guest move back into your home. The police may also direct you to go to court to evict the guest.
  • Judgments for wrongful eviction can be a large amount of money and can include: reimbursement for living costs while the guest was out of the property, lost or stolen personal property, pain and suffering, and, if the tenant can prove that you acted recklessly or maliciously, additional damages to punish you for the illegal eviction.

You can protect yourself from these problems by using the court process to evict your guest.

How do I evict a Tenant through the court?

You can file an eviction case in the Landlord and Tenant Branch of D.C. Superior Court.

  • You can file a complaint on a Verified Complaint for Possession of Real Estate on Landlord and Tenant Form 1B, along with a Summons on Landlord and Tenant Form 1S.
  • After these forms are filled out, take them to the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office, 510 4th Street, NW, Room 110, Washington, DC 20001.
  • After you file the Complaint and Summons, you will need to have someone over the age of 18 serve the papers.
  • The person who serves the guest needs to fill out an Affidavit of Service that explains how the papers were given to the guest.
  • Your first court date will be about 3 weeks after you file your Complaint and Summons.

Do I need to put any special information on the court papers if I am a tenant myself, rather than the owner of the property?

In Paragraph 2 of the Complaint, a tenant who is evicting a guest can check the box "is not the Landlord, Owner, or Personal Representative but has the right to demand possession." You can then explain on the line provided that you are the lawful tenant and that the guest is a person who refuses to leave your home.

Do I need to give my guest a 30-day notice before I file an eviction case in the Landlord and Tenant Branch?

In general, you are only required to give a 30-day notice to quit to someone who is a tenant.

You are usually not required to give a guest a 30-day notice, no matter how long that person has lived in your home. Most of the time, you can sue to evict a guest as soon as you have asked the person to leave and they have refused to move out.

I filed a Complaint to have the guest evicted. What happens when I go to Court?

Make sure you arrive and are seated in the courtroom by 9:00 AM. The judge will explain how the process works and what help may be available.

The clerk will read the names of all parties who are scheduled to appear. You must answer "here" or "present" and state your name when your name is called. Make sure you can hear the clerk clearly. If you cannot hear, raise your hand and let the clerk know. If you miss your name and fail to answer, your case may be dismissed. If the defendant does not answer when the case is called, you can ask the clerk to enter a "default" against the guest.

If you do not hear your name during the roll call or you are late arriving to court and aren't sure if your name was called, you should speak to the clerk in the courtroom after the roll call is over and make sure that the clerk knows that you are present.

What happens if the Tenant does not come to court?

If the guest does not come to court on the initial hearing date, you can usually have a "default" entered against the guest during the morning roll call. In most cases, a default means that a judgment for possession will be entered after you file paperwork with the court proving that the defendant is not in the military.

In some cases, you are also required to present proof (called "ex parte" proof) of your case to the court before you can get a judgment for possession, even if the guest does not come to court or if the guest came to court but left or did not come back to court for a continued hearing.

If proof is required, the judge might set another court date about two weeks after your first one. If the guest does not come to court, the clerk will usually tell you if you need to appear in front of the judge after roll call. If you aren't sure, you can ask the clerk after the roll call is over what you should do next.

I have a judgment for possession. How long will it take until the tenant is evicted?

After you get a judgment for possession, you must wait two full business days before you can file a Writ of Restitution. A Writ of Restitution is a document that authorizes the U.S. Marshals Service to schedule an eviction.

After the Writ of Restitution is filed, the Clerk's Office sends the writ to the U.S. Marshals Service. The U.S. Marshals Service sends a copy of the writ to the tenant. The U.S. Marshals Service will call you to schedule the eviction. The soonest an eviction can take place is on the fourth business day after the writ is filed. The writ is valid for 75 days. If the guest is not evicted in the 75 days, then you will have to file a new (or "alias") writ.

Remember, the U.S. Marshals must be present during the eviction. However, the U.S. Marshals will not remove the guest's property. You will need to find or hire an eviction crew.

D.C. landlord & tenant information

For more information or to protect your business or restaurant call attorney Kamal Nawash 202-776-7191.