How to Report a Landlord in Washington DC for Unsafe Living Conditions

How to Report a Landlord in Washington DC for Unsafe Living Conditions

Last Updated: August 21, 2023

When a renter in Washington DC can’t obtain necessary repairs, before beginning a court case it’s usually possible to file a report with the proper government departments about the unsafe conditions on the property. Code inspectors have the power to order repairs or fine noncompliant landlords.

What Are Considered Unsafe Living Conditions in Washington DC?

In Washington DC, unsafe living conditions exist when a landlord doesn’t provide the following for a rental property, in good working condition:

  • Plumbing.
  • Provided utilities.
  • Heating.
  • Air conditioning, between May 15-Sep. 15 (if provided).
  • Hot water.
  • Garbage containers (in multiple dwellings).
  • Garbage removal services.
  • Required smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.
  • Windows and doors, including locks for doors as appropriate.
  • Painting.
  • Roofs and chimneys.
  • Other structural elements like floors, guardrails, walls, and stairways.
  • Provided kitchen appliances.
  • Common areas (in multiple dwellings).
  • Any other features that affect habitability as defined by the DC housing code.

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What Should Tenants Do Before Reporting a Violation in Washington DC?

In most cases, before reporting a violation, a tenant in Washington DC must notify the landlord about the issue (ideally in writing) and ask him to fix it within a reasonable time considering the issue. The Department of Buildings recommends listing specific code violations, either from a general list or using the specific requirements in Title 14 of the DC Code.

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How Can Tenants Report a Violation in Washington DC?

Tenants in Washington DC should report violations to the Department of Buildings. There’s an online form for reporting maintenance issues. Alternatively, tenants can email their concerns to the department, or call (202) 442-9557. They can also check a property’s compliance online through the DCRA Scout service and the DOB Public Dashboard.

In addition to a detailed issue description, the department will ask for the address of the violation along with contact information for the tenant as well as the landlord or property manager.

After receiving a complaint, an inspecting officer might contact the tenant for more information. Then the officer will usually inspect the property and cite the landlord for any code violations. Unlike most places, Washington DC allows for virtual inspections via video call.

What Could Happen to a Landlord After a Complaint Is Made in Washington DC?

After a tenant files a complaint about unsafe living conditions in Washington DC, an officer may inspect the property and cite the landlord for code violations. DC law considers code violations to also violate the tenant’s implied warranty of habitability.