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Requirements for Becoming a Landlord in DC and Northern Virginia

Illustration about the requirement list to become a property manager
July 15, 2019 Virginia

There are many reasons for becoming a landlord – inheriting a property, keeping a property when you move to a new home, or making a concerted property investment for the extra rental income. Whatever the reason, getting into the rental property business comes with regulations and requirements. And before the first tenant signs a lease, you need to understand the local rules for becoming a licensed landlord. Failure to follow city or county laws covering licensing, health, safety, and zoning can bring major headaches and penalties.

Becoming a Landlord in Washington DC

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

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

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

Becoming a Landlord in Virginia

Two laws bind landlords in Virginia:

  • The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which applies to landlords who are renting out more than two residential units.
  •  The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code applies to all rental units.

You don’t need a special license to become a landlord. Instead, renting out a unit in Virginia is seen as any other type of business, and therefore merely requires a basic business license. Forms can be found on local websites in each county.

It might sound like a nuisance to go through all the necessary steps to become a landlord in the District and Virginia, but it will help you avoid potential fines. And, if you have any problems with your tenant, need to evict them, or take other court action, proper licensing will ensure you have the opportunity to prevail.



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