Landlords in the District of Columbia must follow specific rules and procedures when evicting a tenant (see the article How Evictions Work: What Renters Need to Know, on this site). The District forbids landlords from taking the law into their own hands. Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity—all of which may be the basis for a tenant suing a landlord. Tenants in the District of Columbia may sue for actual and punitive damages.
If you decide to sue your landlord for an illegal eviction, check District of Columbia law (the legal authority for District of Columbia prohibitions against self-help eviction is Mendes v. Johnson, 389 A.2d 781 (D.C. 1978)). See the Laws and Legal Research section of this site for advice on finding and reading case law.
It’s also a good idea to get advice from a local tenants’ rights group in District of Columbia. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website includes information on tenant advocates for each state.
Finally, consider consulting an experienced tenants’ lawyer. See the article Tips on Hiring and Working With Lawyers on this site for advice.
For a wide range of other articles of interest to tenants, see the Renters’ and Tenants’ Rights section on this site.