Washington, D.C., Eviction Process

Timeline. Evicting a tenant in Washington, D.C., can take around 2 to 8 months depending on whether the eviction is drug-related or for some other reason. If a follow-up hearing is scheduled, or a jury trial requested, the process can take longer (read more).

Below are the individual steps of the eviction process in Washington, D.C.

Step 1: Notice is Posted

Landlords in Washington, D.C., can begin the eviction process for several reasons, including:

  1. Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – If a tenant violates a provision of a written lease/rental agreement (including nonpayment of rent), the landlord must give the tenant the opportunity to correct the issue before moving forward with the eviction process.
  2. Demolition of Rental Unit – If the landlord wants to tear down a rental unit, they must give tenants written notice beforehand.
  3. Renovation of Rental Unit – If the landlord needs to evict tenants in order to renovate a rental unit, then tenants must receive written notice.
  4. Discontinuance of Use of Rental Unit – If the landlord/owner no longer intends to rent out the rental unit, tenants must receive written notice prior to being evicted.
  5. Owner’s Personal Use of Rental Unit – If the owner of the rental unit chooses to live in the unit themselves, they must give tenants written notice before evicting them.
  6. Sale of Rental Unit – If the rental unit is being sold, and the tenancy will not continue, tenants must receive written notice prior to eviction.
  7. Illegal Activity – If a tenant is engaged in illegal activity, the landlord must serve them with written notice before pursuing eviction proceedings.
NOTES
  • Retaliatory Evictions. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord or to the appropriate local or government agency regarding the property. It is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for joining, supporting, or organizing a tenant organization or union.
  • Evicting a Squatter If the individual occupying the property didn’t have the landlord’s permission when moving in, doesn’t have a lease/verbal agreement and has no history of paying rent, then no advanced notice is required, and once the landlord files an eviction case with the court, the process is the same as for all other evictions (read more).
  • End of Lease / No Lease According to the Washington, D.C., Office of the Tenant Advocate, tenants may not be evicted simply because the lease term/rent period has ended as long as the tenant continues to pay rent.

Each possible ground for eviction has its own rules for how the process starts.

Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement

A tenant can be evicted in Washington, D.C., if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written lease/rental agreement.

Washington, D.C., landlords are required to allow tenants to correct a lease violation and must provide tenants with a 30-Day Notice to Comply, giving tenants 30 days to correct the issue.

Typical lease violations under this category could include things like damaging the rental property, having too many people residing in the rental unit, having a pet when there’s a no-pet policy, and correctable health/safety violations.

NOTE

Nonpayment of Rent. Nonpayment of rent is considered a lease violation; however, landlords are not required to give tenants who fail to pay rent written notice prior to moving forward with the eviction process. Tenants can, however, pay past-due rent in full at any time prior to the end of the eviction process and remain in the rental unit.

Late fees may be charged if rent remains unpaid 5 days after the due date.

Illegal activity is not included under lease violations.

If the tenant fails to correct the issue/remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Demolition of the Rental Unit

If a Washington, D.C., landlord wants to demolish a rental property and rebuild it, the landlord is required to give tenants at least 180 days’ written notice.

Tenants do not have the option to remain in the rental unit and must move out; however, they do have the right to relocation assistance.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Renovation of the Rental Unit

If a Washington, D.C., landlord wants to renovate a property, and they plan to move tenants out during the renovation, whether it’s just one room, or the entire property, landlords are required to give tenants at least 120 days’ written notice.

The same amount of notice is required for substantial renovations, as well.

Tenants have the right to return to the rental unit once renovations are complete, to re-rent the unit at the same rate if the renovations were required to bring the unit up to current code, and to receive relocation assistance.

However, while the time the tenant must be out of the rental unit for renovations is temporary, if the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may permanently evict the tenant by filing an eviction action with the court.

Eviction Process for Discontinuance of Use

If the landlord/owner decides that they no longer want to rent out the rental property, and the property is going to sit unused, then the landlord must give their tenants 180 days’ written notice to vacate the rental unit.

Tenants do not have an option to remain in the rental unit in these cases and must move out.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Owner’s Personal Use of Rental Unit

If the landlord/owner decides that they no longer want to rent out the unit, and instead want to live in the rental unit/property themselves, then the landlord must give their tenant 90 days’ written notice to vacate the rental unit.

Tenants do not have an option to remain in the rental unit in these cases and must move out.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Sale of Rental Unit

If the rental property is sold, landlords are required to provide their tenants with 90 days’ written notice if the tenants are being evicted because of the sale.

Tenants do not have the option to remain in the rental unit and must move out.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Illegal Activity

If tenants, their guests, or members of the tenant’s household participate in illegal activity in the rental unit or on rental property grounds, the landlord can evict the tenant after giving 30 days’ written notice. (Note: Illegal activity is not defined in the D.C. eviction statutes.)

In these instances, tenants don’t have the option of correcting the issue in order to avoid eviction.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Step 2: Complaint is Filed and Served

As the next step in the eviction process, Washington, D.C., landlords must file a verified complaint in the Superior court. This costs $15 in filing fees.

The summons and complaint may be served on the tenant by anyone over the age of 18 who isn’t part of the case at least 7 days prior to the eviction hearing, unless it’s an eviction for illegal drug activity.

For drug-related evictions, tenants will only receive 5 days’ notice prior to the eviction hearing.

Tenants may be served through one of the following methods :

  1. Giving a copy to the tenant in person
  2. Leaving a copy with someone over the age of 16 at the rental unit
  3. Posting a copy in a conspicuous place on the rental unit AND mailing a copy to the tenant via first class mail

The summons and complaint may only be posted on the rental premises if the first two service methods fail.

5-7 days. The summons and complaint must be served 5 days prior to the hearing for drug-related evictions, and 7 days prior for all other evictions.

Step 3: Court Hearing and Judgment

The initial hearing will be set for a date at least 21 days after the complaint was filed.

For illegal drug activity evictions, the initial hearing will be set for 2 weeks after the complaint was filed with the court.

If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, the judge will make a ruling on the eviction that day.

However, if either the landlord or tenant requests a jury trial, this will add 2 weeks to the process.

NOTE

Formal Answer. Tenants are only required to file a formal answer with the court if they request a jury trial. In that case, the jury hearing date will be postponed for at least 2 weeks in order to give the tenant time to file a verified answer to the complaint.

Another hearing will automatically be set at least 10 days later if the tenant and landlord can’t come up with an agreement at the initial hearing (i.e. for the tenant to move out, pay past due rent, etc.), unless the judicial officer determines that the tenant has no good defense to the eviction case and rules in favor of the landlord.

If the tenant fails to meet the requirements of an agreement reached at the initial hearing (such as paying past-due rent by a certain deadline), then the tenant may be evicted for failing to comply with the agreement/court ruling.

If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, either at an initial or follow-up hearing, a writ of restitution will be issued and the eviction process will proceed.

~2-3 weeks, depending on whether the eviction is for illegal drug activity or another type of eviction. If the tenant or landlord requests a jury trial, or a follow-up hearing is held, this will add about 2 more weeks to the process.

Step 4: Writ of Restitution Is Issued

The writ of restitution is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit, and gives them the opportunity to move out before the U.S. Marshals come to the property to forcibly remove the tenant.

If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, then a writ of restitution will be issued at least 2 days after the judgment for possession (for the landlord) is issued.

The landlord must file a completed writ with the court, but the writ will be sent to the U.S. Marshall’s office the same day it’s filed.

2 days. The writ of restitution can be issued 2 days after the judgment for the landlord is issued.

Step 5: Possession of Property is Returned

Delivery of the writ of restitution must be scheduled by the landlord, but will be delivered by the U.S. Marshal’s service.

Tenants have 3 days to move out once the writ has been posted, unless the eviction also includes a money judgment, like back rent owed. In that case, the eviction must be stayed for 14 days before the tenant can be forcibly removed by the Marshals.

3-14 days. The tenant has 3-14 days to move out of the rental unit once the writ of restitution has been issued before a U.S. Marshal forcibly removes them from the property.

Washington, D.C., Eviction Process Timeline

Below is a summary of the aspects outside of the landlord’s control that dictate the amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in Washington, D.C. With that being said, these estimates can vary greatly, and some time periods may not include weekends or legal holidays.

  1. Initial Notice Period – between 30 and 180 days, depending on the notice type and reason for eviction.
  2. Issuance/Service of Summons and Complaint – 5-7 days, depending on whether the eviction is for illegal drug activity.
  3. Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – 2-3 weeks, more if a follow-up hearing is held or a jury trial is requested.
  4. Issuance of Writ of Possession – 2 days after the judgment is issued in favor of the landlord.
  5. Return of Possession – 3-14 days after the writ is posted.

Flowchart of Washington, D.C., Eviction Process

For additional questions about the eviction process in Washington, D.C., please refer to the official legislation, DC Code §§42-3505.01 to 42-3505.08, §§42-3601 to 42-3610, §§16-1501 to 16-1505, and Superior Court Rules of Procedure for the Landlord and Tenant Branch, for more information.