DC Rental Units, Part II: The Steps to Being a Landlord

by Michele Lerner

DC Rental Units, Part II: The Steps to Being a Landlord: Figure 1

A few weeks ago, we wrote an article about the steps that DC homeowners need to take before they rent out a section of their home. One of the key takeaways from that piece was that if you are thinking of reaping some income off that English basement (and want to be in accordance with the law) you must obtain both a Certificate of Occupancy (C/O) and a Basic Business License (BBL). Below we outline the steps that you need to take in order to do this.

Both the C/O and the BBL can be applied for at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Business License Center (DCRA) located at 941 North Capitol Street, NE, Suite 1000 (map). Here are the steps that should be followed to apply for a Basic Business License:

  1. Submit a BBL EZ Form, which can be downloaded from the DCRA website.
  2. Submit a “Clean Hands Certification” which states that you don’t owe more than $100 to the DC government as a result of fees, penalties, interest or taxes.
  3. Register your business with the Office of Tax & Revenue by filing an FR-500 form.
  4. DCRA will conduct an inspection of the property.
  5. Pay the required BBL and Rental Unit fees (currently $35 for the license, $70 for the application, $25 for the endorsement fee and $43 per rental unit).

Once the steps above have been completed, the rental unit must also be registered with the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Rental Accommodations Division (RAD) at 1800 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE (map). To do this, you need to file a RAD registration/claim of exemption form, which must be accompanied by the BBL application and proof that you own the residence where the units are being rented. Once this application is complete, RAD transmits the filed form to DCRA and then the BBL can be mailed to the landlord or picked up at the office when it is ready.

The BBL lasts for two years and cannot be renewed or applied for online. If a landlord has more than one home in the city, a BBL and C/O are needed for each rental location.

This may seem like an onerous process, but the paperwork and regulations are designed to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords and unsafe housing. The website ThisShouldBeIllegal designed for college students in DC, offers a place for tenants to check up to see if their landlord has a license to rent the home.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_rental_units_part_ii_the_steps_to_being_a_landlord/1558


  1. gina said at 4:19 am on Tuesday December 1, 2009:
    Doesn't the BBL require that your official mail be delivered to an address (not post box) within DC proper? If you don't live in DC, some people hire an attorney to receive official documents (if they don't have a trusted friend or family member). This by itself can cost ~$200.
  1. Mat said at 1:35 am on Wednesday December 2, 2009:
    We had talked before about landlords that do not require C/O because they rent out a room in which all amenities of the house are open to the tenant. If one makes this clear but rents to a basement tenant, is a C/O still required?
  1. Debbie said at 9:35 am on Friday December 11, 2009:
    According to DCRA's licensing office, before you apply for your business license, you must obtain a certificate of occupancy and register with the Office of Tax & Revenue (OTR). For more information regarding Certificate of Occupancy, go to: http://brc.dc.gov/nonprofit/requirementsorg/coo.asp.
  1. Jonathan said at 12:03 am on Wednesday January 27, 2010:
    My job is to actually go and expedite the rental property license so I think I can answer everyones question. Gina- Unfortunately YES many do have to hire an attorney. Keep an eye out for RentJiffy.com doing a full launch in late Spring. They are offering Registered Agent service for $100/2 years. Mat - renting out a portion of the house would be considered a rooming house license of which the requirements are completely different. In your case becuase it is an english basement when you do the inspection they will automatically call you a 2 family structure and will require you to reapply as such. In other words you will always need the COO. DCRA does have paper records but you will need someone who knows how to get to those records. Yuo may have an old one in there. You can also apply for a new one too. This can be a slightly complicated process but no really that bad. Its more time than anything. Debbie - You are correct. You will first need to get your Certificate of Occupancy (either name change or new depending on the property and what's currently on file). You will need to pay the fees for the Certificate. You may then register with Tax and Revenue which is by way of the FR500 Combined Business Tax Registration. You will receive the Notice of Business Tax Registration which is required with the application at DCRA for the actual Basic Business License. Once the application is processed you will receive a notice of filing. **Do keep in mind if you live outside the city you will need to appoint a Registered Agent to receive legal servings as required by law*** At this point you may then go to the Rental Housing Comission in SE DC and submit the Rental Housing Registration form along with proof of ownership. Finally you will be required to go thru the safety inspection. So long as you pass you should receive the actual license in approximately 10 days following the inspection. Overall it can be 2-3 days of work/time spent and at most 2 weeks in order to get the license. If you choose to hire an expeditor to manage the process for you those do exist such as myself. (Sorry guys I won't be a good businessman without inserting that).
  1. Sasha said at 8:04 pm on Wednesday October 12, 2011:
    Jonathan, I will be renting out my condo and moving to another country. Will getting a business license to rent out my condo increase the amount of income or property tax I will have to pay? I will be negative $4,800 at the end of the 12-month lease. Thanks!
  1. Tonya said at 5:13 pm on Monday November 7, 2011:
    Housing Provider Compliance: Nuts and Bolts of Safety, Health and Environmental Compliance DHCD Director, John E. Hall, and the Housing Regulation Administration staff would like to invite you to attend a safety, health and environmental discussion on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, at 441 4th Street, NW, Room 1114 South. Guest speakers will identify best practices in preparing for successful inspections and abating lead base paint and bedbug infestation. They will also identify government programs that provide grants to remediate lead. The DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Director, Nicholas A. Majett will respond to stakeholder questions regarding inspection and compliance procedures. Gerald Brown, Program Director of the Rodent and Vector Control Division of the District of Columbia Department of Health will address housing provider abatement strategies and city initiatives to assist housing providers in abatement of bedbug infestation. Gian Cossa, Chief of Compliance and Enforcement of the Lead and Healthy Housing Division, District Department of the Environment will discuss the city’s lead base paint compliance. Usenobong Bassey and Constance Irvin of the Residential and Community Services Division of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development will provide information on the District of Columbia Lead Safe Washington Program. The program provides grant funds for remediation of lead to all qualified residents before and after citation enforcement. Anticipated attendees include tenants, landlords, realtors, attorneys and District staff. All are welcome. If you are able to attend the meeting, please confirm with Ms. Vivian Portis, Outreach Specialist, at (202) 442-7275 or email at vivian.portis@dc.gov. Tonya M. Butler-Truesdale, Housing Provider Ombudsman Housing Regulation Administration Department of Housing and Community Development 1800 Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue SE Washington, DC 20020 (202) 442-7214 tonya.butler-truesdale@dc.gov http://www.dhcd.dc.gov/dhcd/frames.asp?doc=/dhcd/lib/dhcd/pdf/hpo_flyer_final01.pdf
  1. Grant said at 4:13 pm on Monday March 31, 2014:
    What are the requirements if you are living in the house and are renting out the rooms? Similar to Mat, but all the tenants have complete access to the home and appliances? The DC website has a real paucity of information for live-in landlords. Thanks very much, Grant

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »