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This Proposed Law Could Help DC Tenants Facing Eviction Fight Back Against Dishonest Landlords (DC)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

This Proposed Law Could Help DC Tenants Facing Eviction Fight Back Against Dishonest Landlords

"The DC Council is back from its summer recess, and members are weighing legislation intended to strengthen tenant protections against illegal eviction.

Currently, DC law generally prohibits eviction except under certain circumstances. One of those is that a property owner may evict a tenant if the landlord wants to live in the unit. As a protection against landlords abusing this provision, the law also prohibits a landlord who evicts someone for this reason from renting the unit to a new tenant for 12 months.

But current law isn’t strong enough, according to Council member Charles Allen (Ward 6). He introduced the Housing Conversion and Eviction Clarification Amendment Act of 2019 in January to add teeth to it by requiring a property owner to reimburse an evicted tenant for the cost of moving out of the property if the owner ousts the tenant but doesn’t subsequently move into the unit

Consequences for landlords who violate the law

The problem, Allen says, is that current law has no penalty if a landlord evicts a tenant but doesn’t move in, or rents out the unit to a new tenant during the prohibited timeframe. There’s nothing to stop dishonest landlords from saying they plan to move in when they actually have no intention of doing so.

“Essentially, we’re trying to close a loophole,” Allen said during a June 17 hearing on the bill.

It’s especially important because landlords may falsely claim they want to move into a rental unit in order to avoid the hassle of formal eviction proceedings, Allen told me. Then they could renovate it and rent it out at a higher price, convert it to a condominium, or sell it. That can undermine tenant rights under another law, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, which gives tenants leverage when a property owner wants to sell a rental unit..."

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