Washington D.C. Rent Increase & Fees

Last Updated: January 17, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

In Washington D.C., there are rent control areas where the landlord can raise the rent under the Rental Housing Act of 1985. Proper notice must be given, and rent control is subject to all rental housing accommodations in Washington D.C. (with the exceptions of certain exemptions). Washington D.C. rent control law is primarily governed by DC Official Code §42-3501.01.

Quick Facts
Rent Control Yes, if rental unit is under the Rental Housing Act of 1985
Max. Rent Increase Amount 6.2% (or more with approval from the Rent Administrator); or
4.2% for tenants 62 years + or has a disability
Max. Rent Increase Per Year Once per year or if a unit becomes vacant
Minimum Notice for Rent Increases 30 Days
Max. Late Fee 5% of the rent
Max. Bounced Check Fee $25

When Can a Landlord Increase Rent?

Depending on the lease and if the unit is located in a rent-controlled location, the landlord may increase rent. To increase the cost of rent, Washington D.C. landlord must also meet the following criteria:

  • Rental unit is a housing accommodation (meaning it is an apartment building or apartment complex).
  • Rental unit is in compliance with all housing regulations.
  • There is a 30-day written notice informing the tenant of any rent increase.
  • The increased rent is specified by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) which is based upon the CPI.
  • Previous rent increase was one year ago (unless the rental unit is unoccupied).
  • Rental unit is registered with the Rental Accommodations and Conversions Division (RAD).
  • Rent increase must not violate the terms of the lease agreement.

When Is It Illegal to Raise Rent?

According to the Federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to increase rent based on the age, race, religion, nation or origin, familial status, or disability status or a tenant.

It is also illegal for a Washington D.C. landlord to raise rent in retaliation for a tenant exercising his/her tenant rights.

Washington D.C. landlords can raise rent only in rent-controlled housing under the Rental Housing Act of 1985. However, there are multiple exemptions that do not apply to the Rental Housing Act of 1985:

  • Dwelling units built after 1975.
  • Units owned by a person who owns no more than four dwelling units (and those rental units are registered as exempt).
  • Dwelling units that were unoccupied when the Rental Housing Act took place.
  • Housing accommodations that are under a building improvement plan AND receiving rehabilitation assistance through the Department of Housing and Community Development.
  • Federally or District-subsidized dwelling units.

Is There a Rent Increase Limit?

As of May 1, 2022, the District of Columbia Rental Housing Commission has enacted that rent increases in rent-controlled areas should not increase more than 6.2% unless the landlord receives approval to increase above the 6.2%.

Tenants who are 62 years or older or if the tenant has a disability, the rent increase cannot go above 4.2% (unless the landlord receives approval to increase above the 4.2%).

Additionally, if the tenant is 62 or older/has a disability and annual household income is less than the amount below, the tenant might not have to pay part of the rent for the unit if the landlord received special approval for a rent increase:

  • $54,180 – single person household
  • $61,920- two-person household
  • $69,660- three-person household
  • $77,400- four-person household
  • $85,140- five-person household plus $7,740 for each additional person above five

The rent increase may vary depending on the circumstances such as vacant rental units or hardship.

How Much Notice is Needed for Raising Rent?

Landlords must provide a 30-Day Notice for any rent increase. (Code of the Dist. of Columbia § 42–3502.05)

How Often Can Rent Be Increased?

A landlord may increase once a year; however, if a unit becomes vacant, landlords can raise the rent (on rent-controlled units). The landlord may increase the rent by 10% if the tenant occupied the unit for 10 years or less or up to 20% if a tenant occupied the unit for more than 10 years. (Code of the Dist. of Columbia § 42–3502.13).

Rent can also increase over the annual percentage if the landlord has approval from the Rent Administrator/Office of Administrative Hearings for the following circumstances (Code of the Dist. Columbia § 42–3502.08):

  • Hardship. Landlords may file a Hardship Petition if they are not making at least a 12% rate of return on their rental unit.
  • Capital Improvements. A landlord may petition to increase in the amount to cover the cost of capital improvements which are renovations, repairs, maintenance or an improvement that is depreciable under the Internal Revenue Code. This is a temporary rent increase. The rent increase must be no more than 20% of the prior rent. All units must have improvements (or no more than 15% of the improvements made to only some of the rental units). Elderly and disabled tenants may be exempt.
  • Services and Facilities. If a service or facility cost increases, a landlord may petition for an adjustment in the rent cost.
  • Substantial Rehabilitation. The landlord may file a petition to increase rent for a substantial rehabilitation. The rehabilitation cost must be equal to or more than 50% of the real property tax assessment of the housing accommodation/rental unit. This will be a permanent rent increase. The maximum increased allowed is 125%.
  • 70% Voluntary Agreement. Tenants may enter into a Voluntary Agreement with the landlord. Together they determine the rent, capital improvements, services, facilities, repairs and maintenance. 70% of the tenants must agree to the terms.

For each of these rent increases, a landlord must file a petition and wait for approval by the Rent Administrator/Office of Administrative Hearings. Tenants have the right to petition with the Rent Administration Division and Office of Administrative Hearings.

Laws Regarding Late Fees

According to the Rental Housing Late Fee Fairness Amendment Act of 2016, late fees cannot exceed 5% of the rental amount. Late fees must be in writing, or the landlord cannot charge the tenant.

Laws Regarding Bounced Check Fees

A landlord may charge $25 for insufficient funds.

Cities in the State with Rent Control

In Washington D.C. the Rental Housing Act of 1985 is rent control law. This Act applies to all rental housing accommodations in Washington D.C. (with the exceptions of the exemptions).