The District of Columbia extends special protections to tenants who are victims of domestic violence. Here are some of the domestic violence (DV) laws that apply to tenants:
- Lease cannot include a waiver of some or all DV rights
- Landlord entitled to proof of DV status
- Landlord cannot refuse to rent to a victim of DV
- Early termination right for DV victim
- DV is an affirmative defense to an eviction lawsuit
- Lease cannot prohibit calling the police in a DV situation or otherwise penalize DV victim
- DV victim has the right to have the locks changed
- Landlord or court may bifurcate the lease, which means that the landlord may evict the abuser, but not the victim of the domestic violence
- Landlord must make reasonable accommodations in restoring or improving security and safety measures that are beyond the landlord’s duty of ordinary care and diligence, when such accommodation is necessary to ensure the tenant’s security of safety (tenant may be billed for the cost).
Check the District of Columbia statute (D.C. Code Ann. §§ 42-3505.07, 42-3505.08) to see if the law applies to your situation. See the Laws and Legal Research section of Nolo for advice on finding and reading statutes and court decisions.
If you are facing a domestic violence situation (including stalking) and want to move, check with local police or a battered women’s shelter regarding resources and services in your area, including how to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) from a court. For information and referrals to local agencies, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE. This organization’s website also includes links to state coalitions against domestic violence. Another useful resource is WomensLaw.org, which includes extensive information on state laws relevant to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.