Most residential leases and rental agreements in the District of Columbia require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of the District of Columbia landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Does D.C. law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?
Yes. D.C. landlords may charge tenants (except for those renting rent-stabilized units) the equivalent of one month's rent for the security deposit.
To learn more about steps tenants can take to protect their security deposit after they've paid it, check out Nolo's article Protect Your Security Deposit When You Move In.
What about when a tenant moves out? What is the deadline in D.C. for returning a security deposit?
Under D.C. law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit, along with an itemized statement of deductions, within 45 days after the tenant has surrendered the rental property to the landlord (that is, returned the keys and vacated the property).
Learn more about tenants' rights and landlords' obligations when it comes to the return of the security deposit in Nolo's Cleaning and Repairs a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit chart and Get Your Security Deposit Back article.
Is there additional information that landlords must provide to tenants when it comes to security deposits in D.C.?
Yes. Landlords in the District must state, in the lease or rental agreement or on a receipt, the terms and conditions under which the security deposit was collected. Also in D.C., interest payments on the security deposit (at the prevailing statement savings rate) must be made to the tenant at the end of the tenancy.
Where can I look up D.C. law on security deposits?
If you want to go right to the source and look up D.C. law on security deposits -- or if you're writing a letter to a landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at DC Code Annotated § 42-3502.17 (also DC Municipal Regulations Title 14 §§ 308 to 310). For tips on looking up D.C. and local laws, check out Nolo's State Laws & Legal Research section.
You can also find useful information in the District's tenant guide http://ota.dc.gov/ota/frames.asp?doc=/ota/lib/ota/Tenant_Survival_Guide.pdf.