Washington DC Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Washington DC Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: August 21, 2023

In general, a landlord in Washington DC has to repair any issues at a rental property that could affect a tenant’s health or safety. The landlord must repair issues within a “reasonable time” of getting written notice from the tenant about the needed repairs.

Washington DC Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs

Washington DC landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:

  • Plumbing.
  • Provided utilities.
  • Heating.
  • Air conditioning, between May 15-Sep. 15 (if provided).
  • Hot water.
  • Garbage containers (in multiple dwellings).
  • Garbage removal services.
  • Required smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.
  • Windows and doors, including locks for doors as appropriate.
  • Painting.
  • Roofs and chimneys.
  • Other structural elements like floors, guardrails, walls, and stairways.
  • Provided kitchen appliances.
  • Common areas (in multiple dwellings).
  • Any other features that affect habitability as defined by the DC housing code.

If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Washington DC?

Washington DC tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they cause to the property which affects health and safety.

Requesting Repairs in Washington DC

Washington DC tenants must request repairs by providing the landlord notice about the issue that needs repair. Ideally, a repair request should describe how the issue violates the housing code. Written notice isn’t legally required, but is strongly preferred because it documents the exact wording and timing of the request.

How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Washington DC?

Washington DC landlords have a “reasonable time” to make repairs after getting proper notice about an issue from the tenant or a housing inspector.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Washington DC?

Washington DC landlords cannot refuse to make repairs that are their responsibility without a government order excusing them from performance.

Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Washington DC?

Washington DC landlords are not required to pay for alternative accommodation while they conduct repairs. However, a situation that requires the tenant to move out for repairs may be a constructive eviction that lets the tenant end the lease and stop paying rent after moving out. Tenants might also have the option to withhold rent while the dwelling unit is unavailable.

Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Washington DC

Washington DC tenants can cancel the rental agreement if the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs, in many situations. They might also sue for damages, report the landlord to housing inspection authorities, or withhold rent.

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Washington DC?

Washington DC tenants can withhold rent when a landlord hasn’t made necessary repairs after proper notice.

Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Washington DC?

Washington DC doesn’t have clear law on repair-and-deduct remedies for tenants. The tenant can lawfully withhold the entire sum of rent. This implies the tenant can also spend some of the withheld amount on necessary repairs. Courts have not yet formed clear rules around this remedy.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Washington DC?

Washington DC tenants can break their lease after allowing a “reasonable time” for necessary repairs to issues they didn’t cause.

Can the Tenant Sue in Washington DC?

Washington DC tenants can sue to force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after proper notice.

Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Washington DC?

Washington DC tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect health or safety. This is the recommended default remedy when a landlord isn’t making required repairs.

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Landlord Retaliation 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.

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