Property Management Blog


The Basic Business License Process, Every Landlord Needs to Know

Matthew Greeves - Tuesday, March 19, 2019
The Basic Business License Process, Every Landlord Needs to Know

There are several reasons for becoming a landlord which includes keeping a property when you move to a new home, inheriting property or making a concerted property investment for the additional rental income. 

Getting into the rental property business comes with rules and regulations. Moreover, before the first tenant signs a lease, you must know the rules for becoming a qualified landlord. Failure to follow county or city laws covering licensing, health and safety regulations can bring significant penalties.

Washington DC Rental Properties

D.C. law considers homeowners who rent out detached homes, duplexes, townhouses, condo units, and individual rooms as being in the rental business. Landlords for these properties must apply for a Basic Business License (BBL) for every rental unit. Renting multi-family apartments, buildings and any other type of property with more than three units require a separate apartment business license for property management in Washington, DC.

To obtain a license, you will have to certify that you do not owe the district more than $100, which include interest, penalties, taxes or fees. After completing the Basic Business License, your rental unit must be registered with the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Rental Accommodations Division.

As a Washington, DC landlord, the unit(s) you plan to rent out will have to pass inspection. Inspectors will look at three general areas such as overall state and condition of the unit, household composition, and whether the landlord has all the certifications for components such as cooling or heating systems, ventilation, and water. Lastly, you will need to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy permit for the rental unit.

Being a landlord in DC involves a bit of paperwork which includes getting a Basic Business License (BBL). Whether you’re renting out your basement, a condo or a four-unit apartment building, you’ll need to get a BBL.

The process differs based on the number of units you’re renting out, but the necessary steps remain the same. All prospective landlords should check the zoning map to ensure they are compliant with current zoning regulations and do not owe more than $100. Once those things have been cleared, the following are the process:

1. Most categories require a Certificate of Occupancy, which can be obtained from DCRA.

2. Register your business with the Office of Tax and Revenue. 

3. Fill out the Basic Business License online.

4. Register to get a housing inspection to ensure the unit(s) is up to code. Though your BBL is in hand at this point, if you don’t get an inspection within 45 days, it might be revoked.

5. Next, you must file with the Department of Housing and Community Development, either to register as a rent-controlled unit or to ask for an exemption from rent control.

For more information about this process, you can go to .  We also have all the forms you need on our website