Washington DC Landlord Retaliation Laws

Washington DC Landlord Retaliation Laws

Last Updated: August 21, 2023

Tenant Protected Actions
  • Maintenance Complaints to Gov’t or Landlord
  • Joining/Starting Tenant Organization
  • Asserting Statutory Rights
  • Legal Action Against the Landlord
Landlord Retaliatory Actions
  • Increasing Rent or Tenant Obligations
  • Decreasing Services
  • Attempting Eviction
  • Privacy Violations
  • Harassment/Inconvenience
  • Refusal to Honor Lease Provision
Penalties for Retaliation
  • End Lease
  • Repossess Property
  • Sue for Damages
  • Recover Attorney Fees
  • Potential Criminal Penalties

When Is It Illegal for Landlords to Retaliate in Washington DC?

It’s illegal for Washington DC landlords to do any of the following with an intent to retaliate against a tenant:

  • Increase rent or obligations.
  • Decrease services.
  • Attempt eviction (including pressure to evict outside the legal process).
  • Violate tenant privacy.
  • Harass or unduly inconvenience the tenant.
  • Refuse to honor a provision of the lease or rental agreement.

Tenants get six months of legal protection after they take a protected action. During this period, courts presume retaliatory intention with any of the items listed above, unless the landlord proves a clear and convincing justification. These are the actions the law protects:

  • Complaints to the landlord or the government about failure to maintain the property.
  • Participation in a tenant organization.
  • Asserting rights under Washington DC’s housing laws.
  • Taking legal action against the landlord.

What Can Tenants Do in Response in Washington DC?

Retaliation comes up most often as a defense in eviction cases, but Washington DC tenants can also respond by suing for quiet enjoyment. In either case, the tenant can recover attorney fees, plus expenses associated with the retaliation. They can also ask for an injunction that cancels the lease.

Unlike most places, in Washington DC a violation of the housing law is potentially a criminal offense. A retaliating landlord may also face criminal fines or jail time. The details depend on which anti-retaliation law the tenant chooses.