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Rent Control in Washington DC – A Primer for Landlords

Ilustration about a proper form for rent control
August 1, 2019 Washington DC

If you’re going to be a landlord in Washington, D.C., you need to know about the district’s rent control laws. Depending on your property, the laws can affect how much rent you can charge, how often you can increase the rent, and how much it can go up each time.

Exemptions from Rent Control

The Rental Housing Act of 1985 governs rent control in D.C.. Under the law, all landlords must register as either exempt or not exempt from rent control. Exemptions from rent control include:

  • Locally or federally subsidized units
  • Owners (not corporations) who own four or fewer units
  • Units built after 1975
  • Units vacant when the Act took effect

Raising the Rent

No rent increase can violate the terms of the rental agreement. If your property is subject to rent control, you can only raise the rent if at least 12 months have passed since a previous increase (unless the unit is vacant). You must also provide at least a 30 days notice of the markup.

Rent control limits the size of price increases. Each year, the district sets the allowable rate adjustment, which is equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index plus 2 percent, but no greater than 10 percent. When units are vacant, you may raise the rent by 10 percent or to a level consistent with market rents, but not more than 30 percent.

In certain situations, landlords can petition the Rental Accommodations Division to allow a larger rent increase. Reasons include:

  • Hardship. The owner must show he is unable to make a 12 percent rate of return.
  • Mutual agreement. The landlord and at least 70 percent of a housing unit’s tenants agree to a larger increase
  • Substantial rehabilitation to the property
  • Capital Improvements
  • An increase in services or facilities

Registering with the Rental Accommodations Division (RAD) is part of the process of becoming a legal landlord in D.C. You can register with RAD or file for an exemption from rent control by filling out and submitting a RAD Form. For more information about D.C. rent control laws, you can visit the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development’s Housing Regulation Administration page.

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