DC Landlords MUST Have a Business License to File for Eviction

In Legislation, Real Estate by Richard Bianco

DC Council’s Emergency Legislation Hampers Post-COVID Case Filings

A new law making it tougher for landlords to evict tenants took effect on November 9, 2020. Among the tenant protections in the Fairness in Renting Emergency Amendment Act, is a requirement that landlords have a current housing basic business license in order to access the courts and file an eviction case. This is a change from the Superior Court’s existing precedent, which allowed even unlicensed owners to pursue eviction.

Get Your Basic Business License Now

It is important for landlords to get licensed or renew lapsed licenses, as soon as possible, even during the COVID-19 eviction moratorium, which prevents all case filings until after the end of the public health emergency. It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 cases waiting to be filed once the Court resumes. Due to the likely limited operating capacity of the clerk’s office upon re-opening, we anticipate that this number of filings will result in dramatically increased processing times. As such, landlords will want to be at the front of the line when filings are allowed again. That will not be possible if you are delayed by licensing issues.

In addition to a glut of eviction filings, we expect that DCRA will likewise experience volume delays, once landlords realize that they are required to have a license in order to even file an eviction case. As of the date of this post, DCRA remains open and is processing business license applications. In most cases we are able to assist our clients in procuring a license in 1-2 weeks.

To be clear, all landlords, regardless of the number of units owned, have always been required to have a current business license. In past the penalty for non-compliance with the license law was a fine of up to $1,500. Under the new law however, landlords will be prevented from filing cases until they can show compliance.

Next Steps

When it comes time for the court to re-open, landlords must be ready to file without delay. It is important to make sure you have cleared all of the bureaucratic hurdles to do so. We remain available to assist you with your licensing needs and offer flat fee pricing for complete landlord compliance packages. Please contact us, or use our online scheduling tool to book an appointment at a time that is confident for you.