Washington D.C. Residential Lease Agreement

Last Updated: January 14, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

The Washington D.C. residential lease agreement (“rental agreement”) is a legally binding document between a property owner (“landlord”) and occupant (”tenant”) to lease real property in exchange for a fee. The contract ensures that the tenant will pay a monthly fee in exchange for access to a livable property.

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Washington D.C. Lease Agreement Disclosures

The following disclosures are either required for some or all residential lease agreements in Washington D.C.

Disclosure Applicable to
Rental Regulations All Units
Tenant’s Bill of Rights All Units
Security Deposit All Units
Rent Control/Exemption Status Apartments & Complexes
Building Conditions All Units
Surcharges All Units
Fees All Units with Nonrefundable Fees
Condominium Conversion Registered/Converting to a Condominium
Disclosure of Ownership All Units
Mold Disclosure All Units with History of Mold
Voter Registration Packet All Units
Lead Paint Built Prior to 1978

There are also a number of optional disclosures and addendums that help reduce future conflicts or legal liability in Washington D.C.

Rental Regulations

Applicable to all rental units in Washington D.C.

At the start of every tenancy, all landlords must distribute a copy of the following:

  • District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, CDCR Title 14, Housing, Chapter 3, Landlord and Tenant;
  • Title 14, Housing, Chapter 1, 101 (Civil Enforcement Policy); and
  • Chapter 1, 106 (Notification of Tenants Concerning Violations).

Tenant’s Bill of Rights

Applicable to all rental units in Washington D.C.

Landlords shall distribute a copy of the Tenant Bill of Rights published by the Office of the Tenant Advocate to every tenant. This Bill of Rights outlines the basic rights of tenancy in Washington D.C.

Security Deposit Amount

Applicable to all rental units in Washington D.C. that collect a security deposit.

In Washington D.C., landlords must provide the tenants with the amount of any initial security deposit, the interest rate on the security deposit and how the security deposit will be returned to the tenant upon the end of tenancy.

Rent Control/Exemption Status

Applicable to all housing accommodations, which include apartment buildings and apartment complexes in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is one of the few states that has rent control. Rent control is an important factor as it helps keep housing costs low for tenants by allowing the government to limit the amount of money a landlord can charge for rent.

Landlords must disclose if the property is rent-controlled or exempt status of the housing accommodation, its business license, and a copy of the registration or claim of exemption together with the most recent notice filed.

This Rental Housing Act of 1985 applies to all housing accommodations in Washington D.C. which includes apartment buildings or apartment complexes, unless they are exempt from the Act. The Rental Accommodation Division (RAD) is part of the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Housing Regulation Administration (DHCD), and they are responsible for administering the Act.

The most common increase in rent is an annual adjustment which is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). Generally, most tenants’ rent increase is the CPI-W percentage plus an additional 2% (but not more than 10%). Elderly or disabled tenants may only be charged the CPI percentage but not more than 5%. A housing accommodation is subject to a rent increase under these conditions:

  • The increase in rent charged is no more than the increase allowed under any single section of the Act.
  • The new rent charged is not more than the prior rent plus an allowable increase.
  • The increase shall not violate the terms of the lease.
  • The housing accommodation is properly registered with RAD.
  • The rental unit is in substantial compliance with housing regulations.
  • The landlord must give a 30-day notice of any rent increase.

Exemptions include the following:

  • Rental Units built after 1975.
  • Rental Units (including condominium or cooperative units) owned by a person who owns more than four rental units (that are also registered exempt from the Act).
  • Federally or District subsidized rental units.
  • Rental units that are vacant when the Act took effect.
  • Housing accommodations under a building improvement plan and receiving rehabilitation assistance through the DHCD.

Washington D.C. landlords must provide their tenants with a pamphlet to help them understand the rent control laws and regulations.

Building Conditions  

Applicable to all rental units in Washington D.C.

If there is a tenant petition or petition filed by the landlord which is pending that could affect the rental unit, including petitions for further rent increases during the following 12 months, the landlord shall disclose that they will give a copy of the petition of violation to the tenant.

Landlords shall provide all copies of housing code and property maintenance code violation reports issued by the Department of Buildings within the last 12 months, or previously issued reports for violations which have but not been abated.

Surcharges and Rent Increases

Applicable to all rental units in Washington D.C.

Landlords shall disclose any surcharges on rent for the rental unit, including capital improvement surcharges and the expiration date of those surcharges. Upon a tenant’s request once per year, the landlord must also disclose the amount of, and the basis for, each rent increase for the prior three years.

Refundable and Nonrefundable Fees

Applicable to any unit where the landlord imposes nonrefundable fees.

If a one-time, nonrefundable fee is charged in the rental agreement for pets, access to amenities, or other expenses, it must be stated as “nonrefundable” in the agreement. Otherwise, the fees are subject to a refund upon termination of the lease. Washington D.C. landlords shall charge no more than 5% of rent and reflect the actual expenses incurred by the landlord as a result of a late payment. Washington D.C. has a five-day grace period to pay rent, tenants may be charged only after the agreed upon due date for rent, dictated in the lease.

Condominium Conversion

Applicable to any housing accommodation registered or in the process of converting to a condominium.

The landlord shall disclose if dwelling unit is registered as, or in the process of converting to, a condominium or cooperative or a use that is not a housing accommodation.

Disclosure of Ownership and Business License Information

Applicable to all rental units in Washington D.C.

A landlord shall file a registration statement with the Rent Administrator for each housing accommodation in the District of Columbia for which the landlord is receiving rent or is entitled to receive rent. The landlord shall provide the disclosure of ownership information to the tenant. The landlord must also disclose their business license information to rent out their residential property.

Mold Disclosure

Applicable to all rental units in Washington D.C. with a history of mold.

This disclosure requires landlords to inform tenants of the history of known presence of indoor mold contamination in the rental unit or within the common areas of the premises in the past three years. If remediation has been completed by a professional remediation company that is licensed and certified in the District of Columbia, proof of completion should be given to the tenant.

Voter Registration Packet

Applicable to all rental units in Washington D.C.

The disclosure form published by the Rent Administrator shall include the voter registration packet developed by the District of Columbia Board of Elections. The packet includes a voter registration application, online voter registration, updating a voter’s address, voting rights in Washington D.C. of individuals with criminal records; voter registration information for high school and college students, a weblink to the Board’s website where the tenant can find the date of the next scheduled election, polling place locations and the names and positions of current elected officials in the District of Columbia.

Lead-Based Paint Disclosure

Applicable to any rental units built prior to 1978.

It is a federal law in the United States that any home built prior to 1978 must disclose the risks posed by lead-based paints. This law requires landlords in Washington D.C. to:

  • Fill out and attach this   to the lease agreement.
  • Provide the tenant with an Environmental Protections Agency (about the dangers of lead-based paint.
  • Provide additional records or reports about the presence or hazards of any known lead-based paint in the unit. For multi-unit buildings with common areas, this includes information from building-wide evaluations.

DownloadWashington DC Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Form (PDF)

The following lease agreement disclosures and addendums are not required by Washington D.C. law in residential lease agreements, but either help reduce future conflicts with tenants or reduce legal liability for landlords.

  • Medical Marijuana Use – it is recommended to state where medical marijuana use is and isn’t allowed on the property so that expectations are clear. Washington DC law allows landlords to restrict marijuana usage to non-smoking methods only or control where users can smoke to not interfere with other tenants’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
  • Move-in Checklist – it is recommended to provide an itemized list of damages to the property before move-in to make sure tenants are responsible for any serious damages that occur during the lease term. This can be attached to the lease agreement or signed as a separate document.
  • Shared Utilities Arrangements – for rental units with shared utilities, it is recommended to disclose the specifics of how they are shared, and how each party’s bill is calculated, so that tenants have a reasonable expectation of what they owe each month.
  • Bed Bug Disclosure – for rental units with a history of infestation, it is recommended to provide information on the protocol for handling a bed bug infestation. This addendum will notify the tenant of their obligation to cooperate with bed bug prevention by promptly reporting any sign of infestation to the landlord.
  • Asbestos Disclosure – for rental units built prior to 1981, asbestos was a common building material. This disclosure will notify the tenant to take certain precautions to minimize the chance of disturbing the asbestos fibers (i.e., no sanding, pounding, modifications or repairs, without the landlord’s consent). The disclosure will also notify the tenant of their obligation to immediately notify the landlord if any ceilings begin to deteriorate.