DC’s New Law Further Prevents Landlords from Protecting Life, Safety, and Property

In Legislation, Real Estate by Richard Bianco

On October 14, 2020 a new law is set to go into effect further restricting landlords’ from preventing harm to tenants and buildings. The law does two things: prohibits a housing provider from issuing a notice to vacate to a tenant; and use any alternative means, such as decreasing services, to constructively evict a tenant. Notably, the second piece is redundant, as constructive eviction has been illegal for decades.

Since March 11, 2020 there has been an across-the-board moratorium on evictions and eviction filings. At the time it was passed, the stated purpose of the moratorium was to protect tenants who were economically impacted by the pandemic. However, the law goes far beyond simply preventing economic hardship evictions. All evictions and filings are prohibited, including those based on tenants’ dangerous, nuisance, or even illegal activity.

Notwithstanding the filing and eviction moratorium, until now landlords were still able to send lease violation notices to tenants, giving at least some recourse for dangerous or destructive behavior.

It is important to understand that lease or law violation notices are forms published by the government. Under the new law, landlords are prohibited from sending these form notices which generally inform the tenant of the violation they are committing and give them 30 days to correct their behavior or vacate.

As a practical matter, the notices have been unenforceable since March, because of the eviction and filing moratorium. But at least landlords were allowed to warn tenants that they were violating the lease or the law and demand that they stop. Now, landlords are unable to do even that.

Thus far, outcry from landlords and advocacy groups about protection of life, safety and property has fallen on deaf ears. I sincerely hope that it does not take a tragedy before the Council will legislate in a responsible, common-sense manner.

If you have questions about the new law or about your rights and obligations as a landlord during the pandemic, please contact us or use our online scheduling tool to book an appointment to speak with us.