Washington DC Real Property Lawyer » Washington DC Landlord Tenant Attorney » Registering as Exempt from the DC Rental Housing Act

Navigating the requirements of the DC Rental Housing Act can be complex, especially when it comes to understanding exemptions. D.C. Code § 42–3502.05 provides landlords with essential information on how to register their rental units as exempt from certain provisions of the Act. Below, we summarize the key points to help you determine if your rental property qualifies for an exemption and how to proceed with the registration. For a more comprehensive discussion about these requirements, please contact our office.

How does the Rental Housing Act apply to me?

The Rental Housing Act in Washington, DC, is a comprehensive law that governs the relationship between landlords and tenants in the district. It includes various regulations designed to protect tenants’ rights and ensure fair rental practices. Let’s break down the key components of this act using accessible analogies and straightforward explanations.

1. Rent Control

Think of rent control like a speed limit on a highway. Just as a speed limit prevents drivers from going too fast, rent control prevents landlords from increasing rent too quickly. The Rental Housing Act includes rules that limit how much and how often landlords can raise the rent for certain properties. This helps keep housing affordable and predictable for tenants.

2. Tenant Protections

Imagine you’re playing a game with clearly defined rules to ensure fairness. The act includes a set of rules that protect tenants from unfair practices. These protections include:

  • Eviction Protections: Like a referee ensuring players follow the rules, the act requires landlords to have a legal reason (like non-payment of rent) before they can evict a tenant.
  • Right to Organize: Tenants have the right to form associations and collectively negotiate with landlords, similar to how workers might form a union.
  • Relocation Assistance: If a tenant is forced to move due to renovation or demolition, the act may require landlords to provide financial assistance for relocation, akin to a company offering severance pay to laid-off employees.

3. Rent Increase Procedures

Think of this as a recipe that must be followed precisely. Landlords must follow specific procedures if they want to increase rent, including:

  • Notice Requirement: Landlords must give tenants a written notice a certain number of days before the rent increase takes effect, similar to how you might receive a reminder before a subscription renews.
  • Rent Control Board Approval: For certain types of increases, landlords need to get approval from the Rent Control Board, much like needing a permit to build a new structure.

4. Maintenance and Repairs

Consider this as regular car maintenance required to keep the vehicle running smoothly. The act mandates landlords to maintain their properties in a safe and habitable condition. If they fail to do so, tenants have the right to:

  • Withhold Rent: Under specific circumstances, tenants can withhold rent until repairs are made, similar to not paying for a service until it is correctly provided.
  • Make Repairs and Deduct Cost: Tenants may also have the right to make necessary repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their rent, like fixing a leaky faucet and deducting the expense from a shared utility bill.

5. Tenant’s Right to Purchase

Think of this as having the first option to buy a concert ticket before it goes on sale to the general public. The act gives tenants the right of first refusal if the landlord decides to sell the property. This means tenants can choose to buy the property themselves before the landlord can sell it to someone else.

6. Dispute Resolution

Imagine a mediator in a disagreement to help both parties reach a fair agreement. The Rental Housing Act includes provisions for resolving disputes between landlords and tenants through mediation or hearings before the Rent Control Board.

Who Can Claim Exemption?

Certain rental units in the District of Columbia are exempt from parts of the Rental Housing Act, including rent stabilization provisions. The following categories of rental units may qualify for exemptions:

  1. Federally or District-Owned Housing: Rental units in housing accommodations owned or subsidized by the federal or District government, or units rented by home and community-based services waiver providers occupied by tenants with disabilities.
  2. Newly Constructed or Newly Created Units: Units in buildings with permits issued after December 31, 1975, or new rental units added to existing structures with occupancy certificates issued after January 1, 1980. This exemption does not apply if the construction involves the demolition of previous rent-controlled units unless the new units exceed the number demolished.
  3. Small Landlords: Rental units in housing accommodations with four or fewer units, provided no more than four natural persons own the property, and none of them have an interest in other rental units in DC.
  4. Vacant Units Since 1985: Units that have been continuously vacant and not rented since January 1, 1985, qualify for exemption if they comply with housing regulations when offered for rent again.
  5. Cooperative Housing: Units in structures owned by cooperative housing associations, where no more than four natural persons own the proprietary lease, and none of them have an interest in more than four rental units in DC.
  6. Building Improvement Programs: Housing accommodations undergoing renovations under specific improvement plans approved by tenants and the Department of Housing and Community Development qualify for exemptions.

Registration Process

To claim an exemption, landlords must follow these steps:

  1. File a Claim of Exemption Statement: Submit a claim of exemption to the Rent Administrator. This document should include an oath or affirmation of the exemption’s validity and signatures of all individuals with a direct or indirect interest in the property. Report any changes in ownership or interest within 30 days.
  2. Provide Required Information: Include the property’s address, type, number of bedrooms, and the owner’s business information in the registration statement. If a housing business license is required, include the license and certificate of occupancy details.
  3. Exemption for New Housing Providers: New landlords must file a registration statement and, if applicable, a claim of exemption within 30 days of becoming a housing provider.
  4. Avoid Penalties for Timely Registration: Landlords who register their properties within 90 days of the completion of the publicly accessible rent control database will avoid penalties for previous failures to register.
  5. Ensure Public Access: Make registration statements publicly available on the Department of Housing and Community Development’s website. Additionally, keep a duplicate of the registration statement posted in a public place on the premises or mail a copy to each tenant.

Additional Notices

Landlords must file the following notices with the Rent Administrator:

  1. Rent Increase Notices: File rent increase notices within 30 days of the effective date.
  2. Ownership or Management Changes: File notices of changes in ownership, management, or services included in the rent.

Important Considerations

  1. Tax Exemption Impact: Units subject to tax exemptions under § 47-1005.03 will become subject to rental housing requirements after the tax exemption expires.
  2. Regaining Exemption: If you lose an exemption, you may regain it when the unit is next vacated, provided you meet specific conditions.

Understanding these requirements is crucial for landlords seeking exemptions under the DC Rental Housing Act. Proper registration and compliance will help you correctly categorize and manage your rental units according to the law. If you need assistance with the exemption process or any other landlord-tenant legal matters, our firm is here to help.