WASHINGTON — Eviction notices can cause great stress for tenants across the D.C. area, however even when times are tumultuous, it's critical to have key facts on hand and to know your rights while facing what lies ahead.
The District has a number of organizations that provide people with resources, as well as governmental services.
First, it's good to be aware of what facing an eviction entails. According to the D.C. government's Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA), a landlord must go through the judicial process - it's required for all evictions. In addition, in all cases other than non-payment of rent, a filing with the Rental Accommodations Division (RAD) is also required.
"A tenant may not be evicted just because the initial lease term expires, or because the rental property has been foreclosed upon," the office specifies, sharing that a tenant being evicted must always be given a written "notice to vacate" (CLARIFICATION: this is true in all cases without exception, according to the Office of the Tenant Advocate, based on the Eviction Record Sealing and Fairness in Renting Amendment Act of 2022) .
The tenant must also be given an opportunity to cure the lease violation if that is the basis for the action and an opportunity to challenge the landlord’s claims in court.
The office adds that any eviction has to be pursuant to a court order and it must be scheduled and supervised by the U.S. Marshals Service.
The office lists the following reasons for why a landlord may evict a tenant; a landlord should have one of ten specific statutory reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent;
- Violation of an obligation of tenancy, which the tenant failed to correct after notice;
- The tenant performed an illegal act within the rental unit;
- The landlord seeks in good faith to occupy the rental unit for personal use and occupancy;
- The landlord sells a rental unit to a party who seeks in good faith to occupy the rental unit for personal use and occupancy;
- The landlord seeks to renovate the rental unit in a manner in which the tenant cannot safely occupy it;
- The landlord seeks to demolish the rental unit;
- The landlord seeks to substantially rehabilitate the rental unit;
- The landlord seeks to discontinue the rental unit for housing and occupancy; or
- The landlord seeks to convert the rental unit to a condominium or cooperative after securing governmental approval.
Residents should also be aware of the services the office provides. OTA’s Legal Branch offers tenants technical advice and legal assistance while OTA’s Education & Community Outreach Branch provides YouTube-based tutorial videos and a catalog of tenant rights classes; as well as assists tenants who want to form a tenant association.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if you're eviction lawsuit has not yet been filed, you should start by applying to local organizations for federal money to cover rent, utilities and other housing costs.
The DC Department of Human Services has an Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which helps District residents earning less than 40% of the Area Median Income who are facing housing emergencies. The program provides funding for overdue rent, including late fees and court costs if the qualified household is facing eviction.
In addition, the bureau suggests that you should talk with your landlord about making a repayment plan and find out if your landlord is willing to work with you or if they plan to file an eviction lawsuit.
"Sometimes, the hardest part is just getting the conversation started," the bureau says on its website.
If a landlord has already filed a lawsuit, tenants should attempt to speak with a lawyer as quickly as possible, and get help with rent and utilities if possible, contact the court clerk and ask more questions about your case and file a written answer explaining to the court why you should not be evicted.
On Wednesday, The National Center for State Courts shared that they've received a donation from The Wells Fargo Foundation to expand their Eviction Diversion Initiative.
The grant program supports state and local courts across the country as they build on pandemic-era programs and practices to permanently change their eviction dockets through diversion programs and related court reforms, according to their website.
D.C., along with a number of other states, will feel the effects of the new funds, including improved court processes in an effort to build "stronger communities and see fewer evictions."
Also on Wednesday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser highlighted the Department of Housing and Urban Development's new project, sharing the efforts taken by the government to help residents afford their homes and hopefully avoid future eviction.
HUD's project took three acres and two vacant properties and revitalized them, creating hundreds of affordable housing units for seniors and mixed-income residents in Ward 4.
Mayor Bowser also highlighted the $1.4 billion her administration has invested in the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund and the affordable housing toolkit the District is using to reach 36,000 new homes by 2025, including at least 12,000 affordable homes.
The fund is described as a major tool used to produce and preserve affordable housing in the District; it's a special revenue fund administered by DHCD’s Development and Finance Division (DFD) that provides gap financing for projects affordable to low and moderate-income households, according to the website.
From January 2019 through March 2022, the District has produced 21,915 net new units, of which 4,165 are affordable. You can track the District’s progress toward #36000by2025 at open.dc.gov/36000by2025.