Eviction of a tenant in DC is more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive than anywhere else in the country. The laws and regulations are heavily slanted against landlords and free lawyers are readily available to tenants. Presently, there are only ten (10) legal reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant, all of which are interpreted very strictly.
10 Reasons for Eviction
1. Non-payment of rent or other lease violations.
Seems simple, but it’s not. A non-paying tenant can defend an eviction by saying that the unit has housing code violations and their rent should be reduced. A tenant violating a non-economic term of the lease, gets 30 days to cure the lease violation. Either claim can be tried by a jury, which will cost the landlord months of time and thousands in legal fees.
2. Violation of the law.
If the tenant (or someone else) breaks the law in the unit, the landlord can initiate an eviction after a legally sufficient 30 day notice.
3. Personal use and occupancy.
A landlord can evict a tenant if the landlord intends to use the unit to occupy as a dwelling with 90 days’ notice. However, the unit cannot be rented out for 12 months following the eviction.
4. Personal use of a contract purchaser.
Again, using a 90 day notice, if the landlord sells the unit to someone who intends to live in it, the tenant can be evicted. Provided however, the landlord must give tenant appropriate notice of the sale and the opportunity to purchase, if applicable. Generally, tenants of single family homes (including condos) do not get the opportunity to purchase. There are some exceptions to this general rule and you should consult with an attorney before proceeding.
5. Renovations that cannot be done with the tenant in place.
In order to accomplish this, there are pages and pages of restrictions, documentation requirements, and agency notifications. Additionally the tenant is entitled to relocation assistance and a 120 day notice. After the renovations, the tenant has the right to re-rent the unit. This option is a near logistical impossibility and as a result is rarely used.
6. Demolition of the accommodation.
If a landlord intends to demolish a unit and replace it with new construction, after 180 days notice, relocation assistance, and the opportunity to purchase, if applicable, the landlord can initiate an eviction.
7. Substantial Rehabilitation.
If a landlord intends to substantially rehabilitate a rental unit, to bring it into compliance, the landlord can temporarily displace the tenant with 120 day notice. As is the case with a demolition, the landlord is required to provide relocation assistance.
8. Discontinuance of Housing Use.
If a litany of requirements and restrictions are met, such as rent restrictions if the property is returned to housing use, a tenant can be vacated on 120 days notice if the landlord stops using the unit as rental housing. Again the landlord must provide relocation assistance and give the tenant notice and/or an opportunity to purchase, when required.
9. Conversion to a condominium or cooperative.
To convert a building from rental housing to a condo or co-op, a majority of the tenants must vote in favor of the conversion. If the landlord succeeds, the tenants who opt not to purchase can be evicted on a 60 days’ notice.
10. Termination of subsidy contract.
If the tenant participates in a subsidized housing program, such as Section 8, the government can terminate the subsidy and/or the landlord can evict if the tenant is violating the law in a manner that jeopardizes life, health, and safety.
The most frequent question I get about evictions is whether a tenant can be evicted because the lease expires. NO you can’t. Like it or not,unless you have a reason from the list above, your tenant gets to stay, potentially forever.