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Attention DC Landlords and Tenants!

If you own investment property or have renters, or you are a tenant within the District of Columbia, there is a new law that affects you.

In August, Mayor Vincent Gray signed into law a bill requiring landlords to provide their tenants with the Tenant Bill of Rights. The document, reported on recently by WAMU, outlines DC tenants’ rights, and you can check it out here.

The document was prepared by the Office of the Tenant Advocate, which published a final version in the DC Register last week. The document outlines current DC law in an attempt to make the renting and leasing process less complex for renters. DC law has typically been seen as relatively renter-friendly.

The most important thing for both tenants and landlords to know about the new bill is this: Landlords have to provide it to prospective tenants by July 3, 90 days after its publication in the Register, or waive their right to increasing the rent during that renter’s tenancy. Renters should receive the document along with other mandatory disclosures.

Other than that provision, the law doesn’t change renters’ rights; it just explains them. Among the rights:

  • A landlord has to place a security deposit in an interest-bearing account, and provide the tenant with the deposit plus interest when they move out. If all or part of the deposit isn’t returned, the landlord has to follow certain procedures to explain that and itemize any damages.
  • Organizing. Tenants can band together to create a tenants’ association.
  • TOPA: Tenants have a chance to buy their unit or house if it goes on the market or if the landlord plans to demolish it.

The document also explains ways tenants can be legitimately evicted. Landlords can’t kick renters out of an apartment or house by changing the locks or cutting off utilities, according to the document. Instead, landlords have to get a court order to evict a tenant and evict them with the supervision of the U.S. Marshal Service. Legitimate reasons for evicting tenants under DC law are outlined here.

http://ota.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ota/publication/attachments/2009_10_27_OTA_DC_Tenant_Bill_of_Rights_FOR_SH_COMMENT.pdf

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