It is critical to understand the landscape of the landlord and tenant laws in the district when you have a condo for rent in D.C. Owning property brings with it a lot of opportunities—but also considerable risks. This is especially true in the arena of landlord-renter law in the capital, where changes can happen swiftly—even within the span of two weeks.
Understanding these changes and being aware of them can put you in a better position to succeed. Abiding by and being aware of recent legal changes is only half of the battle. As a property owner, it is as critical to keep up with the laws as they evolve as it is to be educated on what already exists.
As a note: This post is not a substitute for proper legal counsel. When in doubt, it's best to reach out to the local experts at EJF Real Estate Services or to obtain guidance from a skilled attorney.
The Importance of Keeping Up With Changing Landlord Laws
While we intend to highlight some of the most crucial elements of landlord-renter law in the D.C. area, we submit to you that the best way to keep up with such laws (and their application) is through the assistance of an experienced property management provider. An established property management company in Washington, D.C. undertakes the responsibility to know these laws, detect changes, and act on them on your behalf. When you have a condo for rent in D.C., this ends up protecting your interests as a property owner.
When you have a partner working by your side, you have the peace of mind that comes from knowing your property is in skilled hands.
Understanding Security Deposit Requirements
This is one landlord-renter regulation that can be tricky to handle on your own but is absolutely crucial to get right the first time. In Washington, D.C., security deposits have specific legislation that determines how property owners must operate with respect to their disbursement.
- The law states the security deposit cannot be above the cost of one month of rent. Additionally, you may only make this charge once to your current renter.
- Property owners are required to give a status update on security deposits held in mandatory interest-bearing accounts, as well as pay their renters accrued interest on such deposits so long as your renters have remained there for 12 months.
- When your renter moves out, you have a 45-day window to notify your renter that you will be returning the deposit with the accrued interest or that you will be applying the deposit towards relevant repairs.
- If you intend to withhold the security deposit (or even a small portion of it), a statement in writing must be delivered to your renters in person or by certified mail to their last known address.
We could cover an entire article on security deposit law in the D.C. area alone, so for brevity's sake, we recommend that you reach out to us directly if this is one arena in which you find yourself struggling.
Evolving Legislation Concerning Pets
In Washington, D.C., there is no requirement to force landlords to accept pets on their property. The caveat to this is federal law, which permits renters access to Service Animals (S.A.), Assistance Animals (A.A.), and in some cases, Emotional Support Animals (E.S.A.).
- S.A. access is governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and has different provisions pertaining to their protection than the latter two classes of animal. A service animal must be “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
- A.A., by contrast, are regulated in rental homes under the Fair Housing Act. Under fair housing law, there is no requirement that an assistance animal must be trained or certified to perform tasks. Instead, they “provide assistance or emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability.” While a service animal can only be a dog or miniature horse, any animal qualifies as an assistance animal.
E.S.A. is an even more complicated category. In fact, it is a term that even advocates for therapy animals identify as problematic because it is not a protected legal term. When you find yourself on the other side of the desk from these terms with a condo for rent in D.C., it's wise to immediately turn to the professionals for guidance to protect your interests.
Rules Change in an Emergency
The emergence of COVID-19 has led to a bevy of emergency declarations from the Washington, D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) and the D.C. Council. Here are some of the most crucial of which you should be aware:
- Rent increases during this Emergency Period are not allowed. If a rent increase happens during the Emergency Period, it is void.
- While increases are not something you can do, it is still a requirement for the tenant to pay their rent if able during the Emergency period.
- However, rental payment plans must also be an option for tenants to cover all rent due during the Emergency Period and for a year after. To be eligible for such a plan, the tenant needs to prove financial hardship due to the Emergency. A rent payment plan needs to have a minimum length of one-year unless a request comes from the tenant for a shorter term.
- Evictions also cannot happen during the Emergency Period and for 60 days after that period ends.
Keeping consistently aware of the latest changes in landlord-renter law is also crucial to developing excellent working relationships with your renters.
With the laws concerning the management of your condo evolving rapidly in the wake of many societal changes we see happening across D.C., working with an established property management professional is the kind of guidance you need more than ever. We recommend that all property owners finding themselves adrift during these tumultuous times reach out to us immediately to begin safeguarding the future of their investment.