Washington, D.C. Eviction Laws

Landlords should familiarize themselves with the statewide rules and procedures that govern evictions in District of Columbia and understand their responsibilities.

Quick Facts for D.C.

  • Grounds for Eviction: Failure to pay rent, violation of rental agreement & illegal behaviors
  • Notice Required for Nonpayment of Rent: None needed
  • Notice Required for Other Situations: 30-day

How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant?

The question of the amount of time an eviction will take is always difficult to answer. 

The only time that a District of Columbia tenant can be evicted without first receiving a written notice, is when he/she has failed to pay rent. Failure to pay late fees is not considered basis for eviction (District of Columbia Code 42-3505). In all other instances, the landlord must first provide the tenant with a written notice. 

Once the notice has expired, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing with the court. Written notices required when the tenant has violated the terms of the lease or engaged in illegal activity on the rental property are 30-Day Notices. If the tenant does not comply with the notice, and the landlord proceeds with the eviction process in court, the issue takes on all of the complexity of any court case. 

Ultimately, the length of the eviction process in the District of Columbia, will depend upon the nature of the reason for the eviction and the tenant’s willingness to fight the eviction process. 

Reasons for Eviction

Like states, the District of Columbia has established reasons it considers legitimate cause to evict a tenant. These reasons include:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Engaging in illegal acts at the rental property
  • Violation of the terms of the lease
  • The landlord seeks to remove the property for personal use
  • Renovation, demolition, or rehabilitation of the property
  • The landlord seeks to convert the property to a condominium or cooperative space

Eviction for Failure to Pay Rent

If a tenant fails to pay his/her rent on time, a DC landlord may proceed with the eviction process without providing a written notice (District of Columbia Code 42-3505). Although a DC landlord is not required to provide notice prior to filing an eviction process with the court when the tenant has failed to pay rent, the tenant may negate the eviction process up to the point of physical eviction by paying all outstanding rent, fees, and any court fees the landlord has been awarded. 

Eviction if Rent has Been Paid

Unlike many states, a landlord in DC may not evict any tenant without legal cause (District of Columbia Code 42-3505). A DC landlord must have a legal reason and provide written notice when attempting to evict an “at-will” tenant. 

Evicting a Tenant For Violation of Rental Agreement/Lease

A District of Columbia landlord is required to provide a written 30-Day Notice to Correct or Vacate when a tenant has violated terms of the rental agreement. If the tenant fails to correct the situation identified in the notice within the time provided, the landlord has the right to reclaim the rental property (District of Columbia Code 42-3505.)

Evicting a Tenant for Illegal Behavior

When the tenant or a member of his/her household is found by a court to have committed an illegal act at the rental property, and the tenant was or should have been aware of this illegal behavior, a landlord may provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Vacate, and reclaim possession of the property (District of Columbia Code 42-3505). However, it should be noted that if the tenant, or a minor child of the tenant, is the victim of domestic violence, the tenant may not be evicted so long as the issue was reported to the authorities. If the tenant reported this offense within 60 days of the eviction notice or received or filed for an order of protection he/she is protected from eviction. 

How Does a Landlord Evict a Tenant When There is No Lease?

A District of Columbia landlord must proceed with the eviction process in the same way regardless of whether or not the tenant has an active lease. When a lease ends, the tenant automatically becomes a month-to-month tenant in DC. Unlike many states, the District of Columbia does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant simply because the written lease has ended. The landlord is required to have a legitimate reason for seeking an eviction regardless of whether or not the tenant has a written lease agreement. 

When Can a Tenant Not Be Evicted

A tenant in the District of Columbia may not be evicted for illegal activity on the property when he/she, or a minor child in the household, was the victim of domestic violence (District of Columbia Code 42-3505). It is also illegal for a landlord to attempt to evict a tenant based on his/her sex, religion, race, color, nation or origin, familial status, or disability status (Fair Housing Act).

It is illegal for a landlord in the District of Columbia to attempt to evict a tenant in retaliation for filing a complaint against the landlord regarding housing violations, requesting that the landlord make repairs, joining a tenant’s group, or bringing legal action against the landlord (District of Columbia  Code 42-3505.02).

Once a Notice has Expired

The landlord may file an eviction process with the court The landlord must serve the tenant with a copy of the complaint which provides information regarding the time and date for the initial hearing. If the landlord fails to attend the initial hearing, the complaint will be dismissed. The tenant and landlord will be provided with the opportunity to settle the issues themselves. If this doesn’t work, the judge will decide if the issue warrants a trial. 

If a trial is warranted, a date will be set. Each party will be provided the opportunity to present their case. If a tenant fails to attend the initial hearing, breaks a settlement agreement, or loses the trial, the court will enter a judgment in favor of the landlord and enter any financial judgment deemed appropriate.

Once Eviction Occurs

If the court finds in favor of the landlord, he/she may file for a Writ of Eviction after two days. This writ becomes active three days after filing. A copy of this writ will be sent to the tenant. The writ will inform all tenants of the date upon which the tenant may be evicted. If the eviction is based on nonpayment of rent, the tenant may negate the eviction up until the actual eviction by paying all outstanding fees. The tenant is required to vacate the premises upon the arrival of the Marshall.