Your lease or rental agreement should spell out your landlord’s key rent rules, including:
- the amount of rent
- where rent is due (such as by mail to the landlord’s business address)
- when rent is due (including what happens if the rent due date falls on a weekend date or holiday)
- how rent should be paid (usually check, money order, cash, and/or credit card)
- the amount of notice landlords must provide to increase rent
- the amount of any extra fee if your rent check bounces, and
- the consequences of paying rent late, including late fees and termination of the tenancy.
Depending on the rental property, these may be limited by rent control rules in the District.
Rent Control in the District of Columbia
The District of Columbia is one of only five states that have laws that limit the amount of rent landlords may charge. The rent control law is the Rental Housing Act of 1985 (DC Law 6-10), or the Act. This law is codified at DC Official Code §42-3501.01 et. seq.
The Act applies to all apartment buildings or complexes (called housing accommodations) in the District of Columbia. Single rental apartments or houses (called rental units) may be exempt from rent control, including properties that are:
- subsidized by the federal or District government
- built after 1975
- owned by a landlord who owns no more than four rental units in the District (as long as the landlord is not a corporation), or
- vacant when the Act took effect.
Certain parts of the Rental Housing Act or 1985, such as eviction protections, apply to all District tenants, including tenants in single rental houses or apartments.
The Act is administered by the Rental Accommodations Division (RAD) of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. All rental units in the District of Columbia must be registered with the RAD. Rent control automatically applies to any unit that is not registered with the RAD.
Under the Rental Housing Act of 1985, landlords must give tenants a 30-day notice of any increase in rent. Any rent increase meet specified conditions—for example, annual increases are allowed, based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), with a lower rent increase cap for elderly and disabled tenants. A landlord may petition for a larger allowable increase, based on capital improvements to the rental property. Landlords may also increase rent when a rental unit in the District becomes vacant, but there are limits to how much the landlord may increase rent at this time.
Tenants in the District who believe that they are being charged an incorrect amount of rent may file a petition with the RAD challenging the rent as unlawful.
Resources on Tenant Rights in the District of Columbia
For help determining tenant legal rights and remedies in the District, check the website of the Office of the Tenant Advocate or call them at 201-719-6560. Be sure to see the Tenant Survival Guide at this website.
See the Laws and Legal Research section of Nolo for advice on finding and reading statutes and court decisions.