District of Columbia tenants are legally entitled to rental property that meets basic structural, health, and safety standards and is in good repair. If a landlord fails to take care of important maintenance, such as a leaky roof or a broken heater, you have several important legal rights, including:
Before you can withhold rent or use the repair and deduct remedy, make sure that the circumstances justify you paying less rent and that you comply with state legal requirements on things like notice you must provide your landlord. Check District of Columbia state law (see resources below) on the following:
For an overview of District of Columbia landlord-tenant law, including your rights to habitability and options for getting your landlord to make repairs, see: http://ota.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ota/publication/attachments/Tenant_Survival_Guide.pdf.
For D.C. law on rent withholding, see Javins v. First Nat’l Realty Corp., 428 F.2d 1071 (D.C. Cir. 1970).
For D.C. law on repair and deduct, see D.C. Code Ann. § 6-751.10 (for installation of fire alarms only).
For D.C. law prohibiting landlord retaliation, see D.C. Code § 42-3505.02.
See the Laws and Legal Research section of Nolo for advice on finding and reading statutes and court decisions.
Also, check your local housing ordinances for any city or county rules that cover tenant rights when it comes to repairs. Contact your local building or housing authority. To find yours, call your mayor or city manager’s office or check your city or county website.