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D.C. to Phase Out Tenant Protections

Written by Erin N. Schiffman, Law Clerk

On Tuesday, July 13, the D.C. Council unanimously voted and passed a bill to phase out tenant protections, including eviction bans, utility shut offs, and rent freezes. The legislation, which passed on an emergency basis and thus required only one vote, is now awaiting the signature of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. Bowser does not plan to extend the public health emergency, which expires July 26. The expiration dates for tenant protections are attached to the emergency, and without the proposed phasing-out plan, many protections would end 60 days after the emergency expires. The new legislation will create a new set of eviction rules that will last until 225 days after the measure is passed, i.e., until late February 2022.

How many phases is the proposal?

The proposal is 5 phases:

  1. Carve-out plus rent notices
  2. All notices resume
  3. Non-payment (unpaid rent) with protection
  4. Filings other than non-payment
  5. Non-payment without protection

What are the key pieces of the bill?

  • Landlords may only pursue evictions for tenants who owe at least $600 in rent while the legislation is in effect.
  • Rent increases are prohibited for the remainder of 2021.
  • Families facing immediate eviction must be provided with options for assistance.
  • Individuals with mental health issues must be offered “alternative housing arrangements,” before the eviction is carried out.
  • If the tenant’s application for rent assistance is denied, the tenant and landlord must establish a rent payment plan within 14 days of the denial to avoid eviction proceedings.
  • Tenants have a legal defense against eviction if they apply for rent help within 60 days of receiving a past due rent notice and the application is pending, approved but awaiting payment, or under appeal.
  • For tenants who were already scheduled for an eviction before the ban went into effect, landlords must provide 30-day notice informing the tenant of the new eviction date. Actual evictions for these tenants may resume August 26, after the 30-day notice.
  • After October 12, and until the act expires in February, utility providers may only disconnect service for customers who owe at least $600 in late bills and have not sought financial relief or an alternative payment plan.

What happens when the bill is signed into law?

  1. Landlords may begin issuing eviction notices to tenants for past due (unpaid) rent. The notice must include specific language under an amendment from Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large).
  2. Landlords may begin issuing eviction notices to tenants for deliberate and unprovoked damage to units and/or property.

What happens 30 days after the bill is signed into law?

  • Landlords may start filing eviction in the D.C. Superior Court for deliberate and unprovoked damage to units and/or property.

What exactly will the phase-out timeline look like if passed?

Now: Landlords may file evictions against tenants who pose a “threat” for public safety reasons.

When Signed: Landlords may issue (1) notices of past due rent and (2) notice, filing, and writs for (a) public safety, including immediate neighbors and (b) wanton significant damage.

August 26:  Old evictions resume, i.e., evictions that landlord’s filed in D.C. Superior Court prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Landlords must provide a 30-day notice to tenants.

September 26: Notices to vacate resume.

October 12: Non-payment filings resume and ban on utility shut-offs ends.

  • Unpaid Rent: Landlords must provide a 60-day notice; landlords also must complete a rental assistance application via STAY DC on behalf of tenants for any rent due after April 1, 2021 before filing evictions over unpaid rent. Tenants do not have to vacate their units until a judge orders such. Nonpayment filing is prohibited and cases must be dismissed if rental assistance application is submitted within 60 days of past due rent notice and is still pending, approved but awaiting payment, or under appeal.
  • Utility Shut-Offs: Low-income tenants can be protected for an extra 90 days.

November 12: Non-payment hearings resume.

  • Nonpayment filing is prohibited and cases must be dismissed if the rental assistance application is submitted within 60 days of the past due rent notice and is still pending, approved but awaiting payment, or under appeal.

December 3: Non-payment evictions resume.

  • Nonpayment filing is prohibited and cases must be dismissed if the rental assistance application is submitted within 60 days of the past due rent notice and is still pending, approved but awaiting payment, or under appeal.

December 31: Ban on rent increases ends.

January 1: All filing for all eviction types resume.

  • This includes lease violations and breach of lease.

February 1: All hearing types resume.

February 22: All eviction types resume.

March 4 (or 225 days after signed): All rules return to normal unless another action is passed.

March 11: Hearings on cases without emergency protection resume.

April 1: Evictions on cases without emergency protection resume.