Washington D.C. Eviction Process

Last Updated: September 28, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

Steps of the eviction process in Washington D.C.:

  1. Landlord serves tenant written notice.
  2. Landlord files complaint with court (if unresolved).
  3. Court holds hearing & issues judgment.
  4. Writ of restitution is issued.
  5. Possession of property is returned to landlord.

Evicting a tenant in Washington D.C. can take around 1 to 8 months depending on the reason for the eviction. If tenants file an answer or request a jury trial the process can take longer.

Grounds for an Eviction in Washington D.C.

In Washington D.C., a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal grounds to evict include not paying rent on time, violating lease terms, sale of a rental unit, illegal activity, and more. Even so, proper notice must first be given before ending the tenancy.

Grounds Notice Period Curable?
Nonpayment of Rent 60 Days Maybe
Lease Violation 30 Days Maybe
Demolition of Rental Unit 180 Days No
Renovation of Rental Unit 120 Days No
Discontinuance of Use 180 Days No
Owner’s Personal Use 90 Days No
Sale of the Rental Property 90 Days No
Rehabilitation of Rental Unit  120 Days No
Condominium Conversion 90 Days No
Illegal Activity 30 Days No

Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent

In Washington D.C., a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. Through October 7, 2022, Washington D.C. has an Emergency Rental Assistance Program in place and a landlord may not evict a tenant unless the past due rent is more than $600.

If the past due rent is more than $600, a landlord can issue a 60 days’ notice to pay or vacate. The tenant has the option to pay rent, file for emergency rental assistance (eligibility requirements are based on the household’s income), or the tenant must move out.

Unless the lease states otherwise, rent is due at the beginning of each pay period and is considered late in Washington D.C. on the fifth day after its due date. So for example, if rent is due on the first of the month, it is considered late starting on the sixth of the month (if not paid in full).

Once rent is considered late, the landlord can begin the eviction process by serving the tenant with proper notice.

Eviction for Violation of Lease or Responsibilities

In Washington D.C., a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of their lease or not upholding their responsibilities under Washington D.C. landlord-tenant law. To do so, landlords must give 30 days’ notice to fix the issue or vacate. Tenants are given the opportunity to fix the issue before the notice period ends or move out.

Tenant responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining the premises so it is clean, safe and sanitary.
  • Disposing of all garbage in a clean, safe and sanitary manner.
  • Keeping all plumbing fixtures clean and sanitary.
  • Maintaining the premises so it is free from rodents and vermin.
  • Maintaining all facilities, utilities and services to be in a safe and good working condition.
  • Not destroying or damaging any part of the premises.

Examples of lease violations include:

  • Having an unauthorized pet or guest.
  • Parking in an unauthorized area.
  • Not maintaining a certain level of cleanliness.

Eviction for Demolition of the Rental Unit

In Washington D.C., a landlord can evict a tenant if they want to demolish a rental property and rebuild it. To do so, the landlord must give 180 days’ notice to vacate. The tenant does not have the option to remain at the property and must move out at the end of the notice period.

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

Eviction for Renovation of the Rental Unit

In Washington D.C., a landlord can evict a tenant if they want to renovate the rental property and the landlord cannot safely or reasonably make the renovations while the rental unit is being occupied. To do so, the landlord must give 120 days’ notice to vacate without the chance to remain at the property during the renovations.

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.

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 for Substantial Rehabilitation of the Rental Unit

In Washington D.C., a landlord can evict a tenant for the purpose of an immediate, substantial rehabilitation. To do so, the landlord must give 120 days’ notice to vacate without the chance to remain at the property during the rental unit’s renovations.

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

Eviction for Discontinuance of Use

In Washington D.C., a tenant can be evicted if the landlord decides that they no longer want to rent out the property. To do so, the landlord must give their tenants 180 days’ notice to vacate the rental unit. Tenants do not have an option to remain at 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 for Owner’s Personal Use of Rental Unit

In Washington D.C., a landlord can evict a tenant if they no longer want to rent out the unit, and instead want to live at the property themselves. To do so, the landlord must give their tenant 90 days’ notice to vacate. Tenants do not have the option to remain at 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 for Sale of Rental Unit

In Washington D.C. a landlord can evict a tenant if the rental property is sold. To do so, landlords must give 90 days’ notice to vacate.  Tenants do not have the option to remain at 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 for Condominium Conversion

In Washington D.C. a landlord can evict a tenant if the rental unit will be converted into a condominium or cooperative. To do so, landlords must give 90 days’ notice to vacate.  Tenants do not have the option to remain at 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 for Illegal Activity

In Washington D.C., a landlord can evict a tenant for performing an illegal activity at the dwelling unit. To do so, landlords must give 30 days’ notice to vacate. Tenants do not have the option to fix the issue to remain at the rental unit and must move out.

Examples of illegal activity include:

  • Illegal drug activity.
  • Prostitution.
  • Threats of violence.

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

NOTE

End of Lease / No Lease.  In Washington D.C., as long as the tenant continues to pay rent, landlords may not evict tenants simply because the lease term has ended.

warning

Illegal Evictions in Washington D.C.

In Washington D.C., any of the below is illegal.

“Self-Help” Evictions

No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:

  • Changing the locks.
  • Shutting off utilities.
  • Removing tenant belongings.

A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process. If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant an amount that the trial court sees fit.

Retaliatory Evictions

It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right. These rights include:

  • Complaining orally or by written request to the landlord about a habitability issue.
  • Complaining to DC officials about housing violations.
  • Legally withholding all or part of the monthly rent after giving reasonable notice to the landlord about the landlord’s noncompliance.
  • Joining a tenant’s union or organization.
  • Pursuing a legal right to remedy habitability issues.
  • Bringing legal action against the landlord.

If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant an amount that the trial court sees fit.

Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant

A landlord can begin the eviction process in Washington D.C. by serving the tenant with written notice. The notice must be delivered by one of the following methods:

  • Delivering it to the tenant in person.
  • Leaving a copy with someone of suitable age at the rental unit if the tenant cannot be found.
  • Posting the notice in a conspicuous place at the rental unit AND mailing a copy to the tenant via first class mail, postage prepaid (within 3 days of posting) if no one can be found at the rental unit. The landlord must also submit a photograph of the posted notice to the court and the photograph must have a readable timestamp that shows the date and time of when the notice was posted. (This method is only if the first two methods are not possible).

For rental units that are required to be registered with the Rent Administrator, the eviction notice must be served on the Rent Administrator as well as the tenant. Additionally, a notice to vacate shall be signed by the current landlord or landlord’s agent.

Language Requirements. Every eviction notice must be served on the tenant in both English and Spanish. If the tenant speaks a language other than English or Spanish that is covered by the District’s Language Access Law, the landlord is required to provide the notice in that language.

It is important for a landlord to always maintain a copy of the signed and served notice as proof of proper service of notice.

60-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

Through October 7, 2022, if a tenant is late on paying rent (full or partial and is more than $600 behind in rent) in Washington D.C., the landlord can serve them a 60-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. For more information, click here.

30-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate

In Washington D.C., if a tenant commits a violation of the terms of their lease or legal responsibilities as a tenant, the landlord can serve them a 30-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This eviction notice gives the tenant 30 calendar days to fix the issue or move out.

180-Day Notice to Quit

In Washington D.C., if a landlord wants to demolish the rental unit or discontinue the use as a rental property, the landlord can serve the tenant a 180-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice gives the tenant 180 calendar days to move out. The tenant does not have the option to remain on the property.

120-Day Notice to Quit

In Washington D.C., if a landlord wants to substantially rehabilitate the rental unit or make renovations, the landlord can serve the tenant a 120-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice gives the tenant 120 calendar days to move out. The tenant does not have the option to remain on the property.

90-Day Notice to Quit

In Washington D.C., if a landlord wants to sell the property, use the rental property for his or her own personal use, or convert the rental property to a condominium, the landlord can serve the tenant a 90-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice gives the tenant 90 calendar days to move out. The tenant does not have the option to remain on the property.

30-Day Notice to Quit

In Washington D.C., if a tenant is involved with an illegal activity on the rental premises, the landlord can serve the tenant a 30-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice gives the tenant 30 calendar days to move out. The tenant does not have the option to fix the issue and must move out.

Step 2: Landlord Files Lawsuit with Court

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.

Though October 7, 2022 for evictions related to nonpayment of rent, the following pre-requisites are required prior to filing an eviction action in court:

  • The landlord must serve a 60 days’ notice of past due rent.
  • The 60 days’ notice period has ended and the tenant has not filed an emergency rental assistance application.
  • The emergency rental assistance application has been denied.
  • The tenant’s nonpayment of rent is $600 (or more) or the tenant is at least 2 months behind on rent, whichever is greater.
  • The emergency rental assistance application is approved but a balance of $600 or more is owed and the tenant and landlord have not made a rent payment plan within 14 days of the applications denial (or acceptance with a remaining balance).

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; or
  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.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com5-7 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 Holds Hearing & Issues 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.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com ~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 two 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. Marshal’s office the same day it’s filed.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com 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.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com3-14 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

In Washington D.C., an eviction can be completed in 1 to 8 months but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.

Below are the parts of the Washington D.C. eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.

Step Estimated Time
Initial Notice Period 30-180 Calendar Days
Court Issuing/Serving Summons 5-7 Business Days
Court Ruling 14-21 Business Days
Court Serving Writ of Restitution 2 Business Days
Final Notice Period 3-14 Calendar Days

Flowchart of Washington D.C. Eviction Process

Washington DC Eviction Process Flowchart on iPropertyManagement.com

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.

Sources