Evictions in Washington D.C.

Evictions in Washington D.C.

Carlee Sutera
 | 

The United States is facing record unemployment and loss of income in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While unemployment in Washington DC will cover up to $425 per week and the CARES Act allots an extra $600 per week to those who qualify for job losses due to Covid-19, renters in DC are still struggling. The average rent in the nation's capital is $2,234.

As a result, landlords and tenants alike have many questions about evection.

Here is what you need to know about evictions in Washington DC:

Can my landlord evict me if I don’t pay my rent if I’ve lost my job because of COVID-19?

Currently, there is a moratorium on evictions and late fees in place in Washington DC. This means that your landlord cannot evict you or charge you for not paying rent during this time. There is a new law in effect that states there can be no evictions during the public health emergency and 60 days after.

Since Washington DC is in phase one of its reopening plan, the public health emergency is still in place and therefore evictions are not currently taking place.

When will I be evicted?

The answer to this question is unclear.

While DC law makers have passed laws prohibiting the filing of eviction notices until 60 days after the public health emergency ends, no one knows exactly when that will be.

On top of this, this law was passed the first week of May. Before tha 1,100 eviction complaints were filed in D.C. Landlord Tenant Court since March 17. It's unclear what will happen to those cases. 

Can I pay partial rent?
It depends on your lease and landlord, so it is best to read your lease, and talk to your landlord, before making partial payments. 

Whether you pay no rent or partial rent, remember that your landlord has the right to collect every dime you owe once the moratoriums expire. 

Can my landlord charge me late fees?
Landlords cannot charge late fees for payments delayed for COVID-19-related reasons. 

Once the moratorium expires, landlords can charge late fees again, but not retroactive fees. 

Can my landlord lock me out?
Your landlord cannot lock you out. 

If your landlord locks you out, it is recommended that you call RACD at (202)442-4477 or reach out to an attorney. 

If I’m not paying rent, does my landlord still have to fix things? 
Yes, depending on what’s broken.

If your kitchen cabinet doorknob falls off, your landlord doesn’t need to come running over. That’s considered normal wear and tear. 

But emergency repairs for essential utilities and important services (e.g. heat, water) are still required under the moratorium on evictions.

If your landlord does not make repairs find an emergency housing court, which are still open.

How will breaking my lease or eviction affect my credit?
It depends how much effort your landlord wants to exert. 

In most cases, landlords don’t report unpaid rent or partial payments directly to credit bureaus.

To report unpaid rent, a landlord needs to become a member of credit bureaus and have a certain number of accounts to report unpaid rent.

Therefore, only landlords with many properties can afford or qualify for this option. 


However, if you are eventually evicted in court, and the landlord wins a judgment, a legal order that gives debt collectors strong rights, that will appear on your credit report. 

A judgment is part of the recipe that leads to a lower credit score.

What happens if I break my lease and just leave?
If you break your lease and leave, your landlord may sue you for the balance once the moratorium expires. You are still responsible for the lease balance until there is a tenant replacement. 

What happens at the end of the moratorium on evictions?
 60 days after the public health emergency ends, your landlord will be able to evict you, and you will be liable for all money owed. Leases are binding contracts, and it is best to continue to pay your rent if you can.

If you cannot afford to pay your rent, explain your situation to your landlord and see if you can work out some kind of payment plan. You may be able to pay partial rent for a few months and then pay the remaining amount over a specified amount of time.

If you cannot work out a deal with your landlord, go to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website to see if you qualify for rental assistance resources.

Give your landlord notice of when you plan to vacate so that they can plan to list your apartment/home. Once your landlord has signed a lease with a new tenant, they will have mitigated their damages and you will no longer owe them rent money.

But, it is important to remember that while your landlord has to put a good-faith effort into finding a new tenant, they do not have to accept the first application to rent they receive. Finding a new tenant that your landlord believes it suitable may take time, and you will be legally liable for rent until that happens.

During this crisis, knowing your rights as a tenant is more important than ever, and everyone faces a different situation.  For more information, visit LawChamps' Landlord and Tenant Issues and Relief page.


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

 
Carlee Sutera

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