Washington DC Landlord Tenant LawsThis article is intended to be an online resource for Washington D.C. landlords.  We summarize key Washington D.C. Landlord-Tenant laws that are most applicable to residential rental units.

This article is not qualified for legal advice.  Individuals seeking guidance need to work with a legal advisor who is qualified in the jurisdiction.  Washington D.C. Landlord Tenant Laws and statutes may vary from county to county or city to city, this article provides state-level laws and statutes. 

Also, laws and statutes are subject to change and may cause sections of this article to be outdated.  We provide links to assist landlords and tenants to the state statute page for further research.

Click here if you are seeking renters insurance in Washington DC.


Quick Facts for Real Estate Investors Considering Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. landlord-tenant laws are considered Landlord-friendly.

There are 705,749 residents in Washington D.C.  Average rent is $1,499 and 58% of residents are renter occupied.






Does Washington D.C. require security deposits? 

Washington D.C. does not require security deposits, however, if accepted then there are laws and regulations.



Is a security deposit receipt required in Washington D.C.? 

Receipts for security deposits are required.  Landlords must provide written receipts for all monies paid, such as rent, security, fees that state (a) the exact amount received, (b) date received, and (c) the purpose of the payment.  Personal checks do not require receipts.  (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 306)



How much security deposit can a landlord charge in Washington D.C.? 

Washington D.C. states landlords cannot exceed 1 month’s rent for security deposits.  (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.2)




Storage Requirements for Security Deposits in Washington D.C.: 

Landlords have 30 days to deposit security deposits into an escrow or separate account.   (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.4)  Owners of multiple rental properties may use one escrow account for all of their holdings.(D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.5)



Can security deposits be commingled with other assets in Washington D.C.? 

Landlords cannot commingle deposits with their personal funds.   (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.4)



Do landlords have to pay interest on security deposits in Washington D.C.? 

Landlords do have to share the interest earned for deposits if the tenancy is 12 months or longer.  (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 311.2) 

Tenants receive annually the interest rate paid at the statement savings rate.  (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 308.3)

If the landlord’s account earns higher than the statement savings rate, landlords are allowed to use up to 30% of the excess interest for administrative costs.



When must a landlord return the deposit by in Washington D.C.? 

Landlords must return the security deposits and interest accrued within 45 days after the tenant has moved out of the rental unit.  After notifying the tenant for any deductions from their deposits, landlords must return the remaining balance.  (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.2)



When can a landlord in Washington D.C. withhold a security deposit?

At the end of a lease, the landlord is required to return the tenant’s security deposit.  Landlords are given a 3-day inspection period either before or after the tenants move out.  This excludes Saturday or Sunday.  Landlords must provide a 10-day inspection notice.

However, landlords may withhold all or portions of a tenant’s security deposit if stated in the lease, that includes (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.2):


  • Unpaid rent and/or fees
  • Tenant’s noncompliance of the rental agreement or statutory Tenant Duties
  • Damages beyond normal wear-and-tear
  • Unpaid utility bills




Nonrefundable fees: 

Landlords are allowed to accept however the landlord must notify prospective renters of any pending request for an adjustment on the rent ceiling.  The landlord’s notice must include:

  • Current rent ceiling
  • New rent ceiling requested
  • Date the request was filed and its petition number
  • State the nature of any repairs or rehabs planned as part of the petition



Pet Deposits and Additional Fees:

No Statute.



Require a written description / itemized list of damages and charges?

Landlords are required to provide a written and itemized list of damages.  (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309.2)



What happens to Washington D.C. landlords that fail to comply with returning the security deposit?

The landlord is liable to the tenant to (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 309) :

  • Forfeit any rights to without any portion of the deposit, plus interest
  • Face a civil fine up to $5,000 per violation











Rental agreements required in Washington D.C.:

Rental agreements are not required to be written.  We always recommend having a legal written lease agreement to prevent future complications.  Landlords must provide a copy of any written rental agreement within 7 days of execution.

If you need a lease, Burbz offers an online Washington D.C. rental lease agreement.



What are the required lease provisions in Washington D.C.?

Washington DC requires certain provisions to be included in the lease agreement.  Besides both the landlord and tenant names, the landlord should also list:

  • MUST:  Landlords name, address, and phone number
  • MUST:  Rent Amount and Due Date.
  • MUST:  Length of the lease agreement
  • MUST:  Description of the rental unit
  • Conditions of occupancy
  • Provision defining automatic renewal
  • Late Fees and Penalties
  • Tenants name, address, and phone number
  • Landlord’s responsibilities for maintenance and utilities
  • Tenant’s responsibilities for maintenance and utilities
  • Occupancy by children or pets
  • Required deposits and the conditions for their refund
  • Inspection rights by the landlord
  • Other fees
  • Address of rental property
  • Security deposit amount and terms
  • Process for requesting maintenance and repairs
  • Subleasing policy
  • Pet policies
  • Cleaning Fees



  • Including any term that is prohibited by law 
  • Tenant indemnifies the landlord’s liability for injuries to persons or property caused by the owner’s negligence
  • Any provision waiving tenant’s right under the law
  • Tenant agrees to pay the owner’s court cost or legal fees regardless of the verdict
  • Tenant automatically assumes liability for any lawsuit that arises from leasing



What are the rental agreement notice requirements in Washington D.C.: 

Fixed-End or Year-to-Year: No statute as leases expire.   (D.C. Code § 42-3201)

Month-to-Month: Must provide at least 30 day’s written notice prior to a periodic rent due date. (D.C. Code § 42-3202)  Read our guide on Month-to-Month rent.

Week-to-Week: Must provide at least 7 day’s written notice with the termination date specified in the notice. (D.C. Code § 42-3202)


Rent Increase Notice:

Washington D.C. has a rent control law that landlords must follow.  After registering the rental property with the Rental Accommodation Division (RAD), in order to increase the rent amount the landlord must (D.C. Code § 42-3502.22):

  • Register the rental property with RAD
  • Confirmed that the property is in substantial compliance with housing regulations
  • Have not increased rents within the last 12 months
  • Provided at least a 30 day notice

The following are acceptable methods for the landlord to increase rents, or for the tenant to object:

  • Automatically Increase: Each year, landlords can automatically increase rent based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W).  Although landlords can only exceed CPI-W by 2% and total rent cannot be increased by more than 10%.  If tenants are elderly or disabled, rent cannot be increased by more than 5% of the previous amount.
  • Vacancy Increase:  Landlords may increase rent of more than 10% when the unit is vacated.  The increase is maxed at 30% and the landlord cannot increase for another 12 month period.
  • Petition RAD:  Landlords may petition RAD to allow rent increases due to hardship, capital improvements, services, or other substantial improvements.  If 70% of the tenants agree to the increased rent, the landlord can petition for a voluntary rent increase.
  • Tenant Objections:  Tenants can object if they believe the rent adjustment is incorrect.  RAD will hold a hearing and allow both parties to present their arguments.
  • Landlord Exceptions:  Landlords with 4 or fewer rental units are exempt from these rent control laws.  The rental properties cannot be owned through any type of corporation, including LLC.



Rent Grace Period for Residential:

Washington DC states a landlord must wait 5 days before charing any late fees.  After the fifth day, landlords must send the tenant an invoice with Net 30 terms.




Prepaid Rent:

Landlords are allowed to collect prepaid rent, no statute defining the limits.










Late Fees for Residential:

Washington D.C. only allows landlords to charge a maximum 5% of the total rent due.








In Washington D.C., lease agreements between landlords and tenants can be terminated.  Read our blog for landlords about handling early lease terminations.  Here are the cause and effects:



What is the Pay or Quit for Nonpayment requirement in Washington D.C.?

Washington DC requires landlords to send a 30 day notice to the tenant to pay or move-out.  If the tenant has not paid after the 30 days, landlords may begin the eviction process.  (D.C. Code § 42-3505.01) (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 4301)




How many days must a landlord allow before terminating for a Lease Violation?

Washington D.C. requires landlords to send a 30 day notice to the tenant to remedy the violation or move-out.  If the tenant has not paid after the 30 days, landlords may begin the eviction process.  (D.C. Code § 42-3505.01) (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 4301)


What happens with a tenant holdover and they refuse to leave?

Tenants that refuse to surrender possession after providing their notice to quit shall be liable for rent at double the rate if they do not surrender possession.  (D.C. Code § 42-3207)






Washington D.C. requires landlords to provide a habitable property for tenants to live and enjoy.  There are specific provisions defining how tenants can remedy repairs if the landlord fails to do so. 



How many days must the tenant give for non-emergency repairs? 

Tenants need to send landlords notice via certified mail.  No duration of time is stated for landlords to make repairs.  Generally, landlords are allowed a reasonable time for repairs in most states, which ranges from 7 days to 30 depending on the severity of the issue.



Can tenants withhold rent for landlords’ failure to provide essential services (i.e. water, heat, etc.)?

Washington D.C. allows the tenant the following remedies to handle repairs if the landlord fails:

  • Submit an inspection request to the Housing Inspection Section of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
  • Receive inspection
  • If the landlord fails to make the required repairs, tenants can submit a petition to the Rental Accommodations and Conversion Division (RACD).
  • Tenants can sue up to $5,000 in small claims court.




There is no statute.  However, generally, landlords have an obligation to the tenants, which include:

  • Remain in compliance with all applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety
  • Make repairs to keep premises in a safe condition
  • Keep all common areas of the property in a clean and safe condition
  • Maintain in good and safe working order and condition electrical, plumbing, sanitary, HVAC and other facilities and appliances, including elevators.
  • Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for removal ashes, garbage, rubbish and other waste
  • Supply running water and a reasonable amount of hot water at all times and reasonable heat






Generally, tenants must dispose of all rubbish and garbage, refrain from unreasonable use of electrical, heating, and plumbing fixtures, meet all obligations lawfully by the code enforcement agency, refrain from willfully destroying or damaging the structure, take in additional occupants, rent or sublease without the owner’s consent.  








Can landlords do a ‘self help’ eviction?

In Washington DC, it is illegal for landlords to cause the tenant to quit the rental unit involuntarily.



Are landlords allowed to lockout tenants by changing locks?

The landlord cannot change or remove the doors or locks.



Are landlords allowed to turn off utilities?

No statute.  However, most states say landlords cannot turn off utilities. 



Do landlords have to make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages when re-renting the rental unit?

No statute.






Washington DC laws state a landlord cannot terminate a lease, refuse a lease renewal or raise rents when (D.C. Mun. Regs. 14, §§ 307):

  • Tenant submitted, or threatened to, a complaint to the government agency for building or health code violation
  • Tenant has organized or joined a tenants’ union, or similar organization
  • Tenant, in good faith, exercised their rights provided by Washington D.C. tenant laws


Washington D.C. defines a period of 6 months after an event that would result in retaliating actions.  (D.C. Code § 42-3505.02)






Washington D.C. states a landlord cannot discriminate against victims of domestic or sexual violence.  Landlords are required to change locks if requested, tenants have 45 days to pay back the landlord.

Victims are allowed to terminate their lease agreements with 14 day notice with proof of imminent threat in the form of medical, court, or police evidence.  The event must have occurred within the last 90 days of providing notice

If you are a victim, please search The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence site for a helpline:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673






Washington D.C. does not have any statewide laws regarding locks for landlords.  The tenant cannot remove, replace or add a lock without the written permission from the landlord.  If the tenant does with permission, they must provide the landlord with a key. 







Washington DC Landlord-Tenant Laws does not have any specific pet laws.  Landlords are legally allowed to create their own pet policies and requirements.  Including tolerance for breeds, size, types, and more.  Read our guide to pet policies.








According to Washington DC Landlord-Tenant Laws, landlords are required to get a housing business license in order to rent out residential properties.  Once licensed, landlords must register and obtain a Certificate of Occupancy with the Rental Accommodation Division.  Landlords can follow these steps for getting their rental units ready.









Do landlords in Washington D.C. have to provide notice of entry? 

Washington D.C. requires the landlord to provide 48 hour notice and can only enter during normal business hours, excluding Sundays and federal holidays.

  • Non-emergency maintenance and repairs
  • Improvements to property
  • Inspections
  • Showing prospective tenants, contractors, mortgagees, or buyers.



When can a landlord enter without notice:

Landlords may enter due to an emergency due to potential harm to a person or property.



Can landlords enter for non-emergency maintenance and repairs?

Yes, with proper notice and performed at reasonable hours.



Can landlords enter for showings?

Yes, with proper notice and performed at reasonable hours.




Can landlords enter for emergencies without notice?

Yes, when there is an immediate threat to the safety or health of persons using or near the premises.



Can landlords enter during Tenant’s extended absence?

No statute.



Can landlords enter for pesticides?

No Statute.









Landlords should include a clause in the lease agreement to prevent subleasing.  Otherwise, the tenant may sublet the rental unit.







Washington D.C. Landlord-Tenant Laws do not state any provisions regarding tenant’s abandoned property.  Landlords should include a provision outlining the process for handling the abandoned property.







Washington D.C. Landlord-Tenant Laws requires the following be included with all Rental Agreement Disclosures:


Lead Paint Disclosure:  Yes.  Federal law requires every landlord to disclose known information on lead-based paint and hazards.  Landlords must provide this EPA-approved pamphlet.

Housing Code Provisions:  Landlords shall provide a copy of Chapter 3: Landlord and Tenant Laws at the start of every tenancy.

Condominium Conversion:  Landlords must notify tenants before any intention to terminate the rental agreement if they intend to convert the rental unit into a condo.

Mold:  If there has been mold in the rental unit or common areas within the last 3 years, landlords must notify the tenants unless it was remedied by an indoor mold remediation profession that is certified and licensed in D.C.

Rent Control:  Every tenant must be given Rent Administrator’s pamphlet that helps educate and inform tenants about laws, regulations of rent increases, petitions.

Tenant Bill of Rights:  Every tenant must be given a copy of the Tenants Bill of Rights, by the Office of the Tenant Advocate.




District of Columbia Municipal Regulations

The Office of Tenant Advocate

Washington D.C. Tenant Bill of Rights

Washington D.C. Tenant Survival Guide

DC Rental Housing Commission

DC Housing Authority

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – DC

DC Real Estate Commission




Washington D.C. Small Claims Court Limits:

$10,000 is the limit for small claims court. (D.C. Code § 11-1321



Washington D.C. Eviction Cases Allowed in Small Claims:


DC Small Claims Court

DC Courts

Search Court Cases Online

The District of Columbia Bar

The Bar Association of the District of Columbia

DC Office of the Attorney General



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