Would DC’s Tenant Laws Deter You From Renting Your Home?

by UrbanTurf Staff

Would DC's Tenant Laws Deter You From Renting Your Home?: Figure 1

DC’s tenant-friendly nature received another round of criticism recently, this time from Bloomberg’s Megan McCardle, who is also a DC resident.

In an article from a couple weeks ago, McCardle examines the issues associated with DC’s stance on tenants from a variety of different angles. And towards the beginning of the article, she offers this:

Property owners in Washington do not want to be landlords. I know more than one homeowner who has considered turning their basement into a rental apartment, then considered the possibility of having a nonpaying tenant who can’t be evicted for months and thought better of their plan.

UrbanTurf has found that a basement rental (or at least the possibility of one) is one of the most sought-after features among homebuyers on the hunt in DC, so we wanted to put McCardle’s thesis to the test. Whether or not you own a home or not, would the city’s friendly tenant laws make you less likely to become a landlord? Let us know in the poll below.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/would_dc_tenant_friendly_laws_deter_you_from_renting_your_home/8565


  1. Lisa Wise said at 1:47 pm on Friday June 13, 2014:
    Tenant laws in DC are certainly onerous and for many would be landlords they can be daunting. All that said, if you have a great space and it’s property registered with the city there should be no reason why you can’t have a great experience with a tenant. Focus on both safety and a space that stands out from the rest. Great custom color, nice flooring and finishes make a difference. Keep the rent just under market and do what you can to keep tenants feeling at home and feeling taken care of. When problems emerge handle them swiftly. Be responsive. Do pro-active maintenance and be very communicative. Regardless of the law, this approach wins almost every time. Good luck! Lisa Wise - NEST DC
  1. Johnny said at 4:38 am on Sunday June 15, 2014:
    DC does not have tenant-friendly laws. It has landlord-oppression laws. You should only rent out your place if you are rich with no mortgage left to pay so that it doesn't matter whether your tenant pays the rent or whether your tenant destroys your place. If you have troubles paying your mortgage and hope to get some extra money by renting out a room, it could back fire in a big way. Once you let your tenant in, you no longer have controls over your house. Your tenant can leave your door wide open, unattended, 24 hours a day, and there's nothing you can do. Your tenant can invite prostitutes, thieves, gang members into your house, and there's nothing you can do. Your tenant can throw parties every night, and there's nothing you can do. Now here's a shocker: it doesn't matter if you have a contract or not. Your tenant is protected the same way. Even when you specifically agree to rent out the room for just the three months of summer, if your tenant doesn't move out at the end of the summer, there's nothing you can do about it. In fact, if you change the lock on your crazy tenant, he can sue you. Worse, the same law is applied if your friend comes for a visit and never leaves. You don't have the rights to kick him out. I want things to be fair, but there's nothing fair about DC's tenant laws. It only protects one side and could care less about the other.
  1. Jason said at 7:53 pm on Monday June 16, 2014:
    In regards to eviction law, DC is a bit on the tenant friendly side but not for the reasons mentioned above. "Self-Help eviction" aka changing the locks and throwing another persons stuff out on the street at your whim is illegal in just about every state and it should be. In some ways DC law is a model other jurisdictions should follow in that it spells out specifically the acceptable reasons and process of eviction. You can certainly be evicted for non-payment and for criminal activity. It is simply untrue to state otherwise. The issue for both landlords and tenants is that our enforcement system lets bad actors do a lot of financial damage before the system can provide recourse. A landlord might never recover 1-3 months of rent from a nonpaying tenant and a tenant might never recover from a bad landlord the payments for an apartment with broken appliances/heat/plumbing for months on end. In most places, judicial eviction is not going to get someone out who has stopped paying instantly. The courts are also not going to get bad landlords to fix things instantly. As a renter, I value the stability of DC's tenant friendly provisions. I can automatically go month-to-month at the end of an initial lease term. I am protected from retaliatory rent increases. Now I would support the law being changed to better clarify that all leases should be written, and the onus should be on the landlord for that one. I would also say it is perfectly reasonable to have enforceable short-term leases for 4 months or less that require tenants to vacate at the end of a seasonal rental, but not at the end of a 6+ month lease.
  1. 20011 said at 2:56 pm on Tuesday June 17, 2014:
    If you're solely depending on a rental unit to pay your mortgage, you not only shouldn't be a landlord, but you should have bought property in the first place. Rentals are supposed to be additional income, not your sole source for your mortgage. Sorry if you bit the bullet on this one. What's great about DC's rental law is that it holds landlords accountable for bad behavior: no punitive rent increases, no extorting into year long leases, prevents landlords from ripping off tenants. I had a landlord who made a living ripping off temporary tenants (see: interns). Since he knew they were flying back to, say California, and he knew that they weren't paying with their own money, he'd nickle and dime them on nail holes in the wall or a stain on the carpet, then he'd keep their entire security deposit and basically dare them to challenge him in court. Well he tried the same to me, except he made the mistake in that I'm not temporary, I live here, I know DC tenant law and I know how to use small claims to get justice. God bless DC and its tenant law.

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 »