Washington DC rent control laws are unique –and protect tenants with strict regulations. only a few other states have cities with rent control safeguards. So, if you’re a tenant who is new to rent control or new to DC, learning more about the law will help you protect yourself from unwarranted rent increases and prohibited actions.
The Rental Housing Act of 1985
The law that provides rent control regulations in Washington D.C. is the Rental Housing Act of 1985. It covers all residential rental dwellings, including apartments, houses, and individual rooms for rent within houses. In D.C., all rental units are required to register with the Rental Accommodations Division of the Department of Housing and Community Development as either exempt or non-exempt from the rent control law. Examples of units that are exempt from rent control regulations include properties:
- Subsidized by either the federal government or the District
- Built after 1975
- Owned by a landlord (but not a corporation) who owns no more than four rental units in D.C.
- That were vacant when the rent control law took effect
Rent Control – What Landlords Can and Cannot Do
Landlords subject to rent control have to follow certain rules regarding rent increases. In order to raise the rent, they can’t have done so in the past 12 months, and any increase may not violate the terms of the lease agreement. The law also limits how much landlords can increase the rent.
For most tenants, rent increases are limited to the Consumer Price Index plus 2 percent, but not more than 10 percent total. Increases allowed for elderly or disabled tenants are smaller. Your landlord is required to provide you with a 30-day notice of any increase in your rent amount.
There are some other allowable increases, but they require landlords to file a petition with, and get approval from the DHCD. For example, landlords can petition to increase the rent if they have made capital improvements or substantially rehabilitated the property. They can also apply because of hardship, if they aren’t earning a rate of return of 12 percent or more on the rental.