Written by Beth Harrison

May 11


D.C. Council Extends Emergency Protections for Tenants

A new round of emergency legislation enacted by the Council Tuesday extended protections for tenants in the District.

First, the legislation prohibits landlords from filing any new eviction cases during the public health emergency and for 60 days after. Legal Aid and other advocates had called on the Council to enact this temporary ban to ensure tenants will have enough time to put financial supports in place and avoid any case being filed. We appreciate the support of Councilmember Bonds, other members of the Housing Committee, and Chairman Mendelson in getting this important protection in place. Read more →

Apr 24


DC Lags Behind On Eviction Protections

Earlier this week, the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, in partnership with Columbia Law School, issued a policy scorecard for all 50 states and the District of Columbia on emergency protections adopted to protect tenants facing eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic. DC currently ranks 19 out of 51 jurisdictions evaluated, lagging behind many states. Read more →

Apr 09


D.C. Council and Congress Enact Additional Tenant Protections In Response to COVID-19

In a second round of emergency legislation passed yesterday, the D.C. Council added new protections for tenants in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These tenant protections build upon the ones that were included in the Council’s initial emergency legislation enacted several weeks ago. Even with these new measures in place, however, there are still gaps that the Council should address to provide more complete relief to tenants. Read more →

Mar 18


The D.C. Council and D.C. Superior Court Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis With Emergency Measures to Protect Tenants

Within the past few days, both the D.C. Council and the D.C. Superior Court have enacted emergency measures to protect tenants during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Emergency legislation passed by the D.C. Council yesterday contains several critical protections for tenants. Legal Aid worked closely with other advocates and with Committee Chairs Anita Bonds (Housing) and Charles Allen (Judiciary) and their staff, as well as Chairman Phil Mendelson and his staff, to ensure that tenants will be protected as the current crisis unfolds. Read more →

May 21


Abusive “Rent Concession” Practices Threaten District’s Rent Control Program

Rent control is the District’s largest affordable housing program, covering more than 80,000 units and protecting hundreds of thousands of tenants from displacement. It also is a program under attack. Too often, landlords are able to take advantage of loopholes in existing law to impose large rent hikes, at times to levels far above market, forcing long-time residents out of their homes and eroding the long-term affordability of rent control units.

The Washington City Paper published an article last week highlighting an abusive practice that some landlords engage in once they take these large rent increases. Landlords will advertise and charge lower rent amounts, offering tenant “rent concessions”. Tenants are told that higher rent levels are on the books but will not be charged. But when it comes time to renew a tenant’s lease, many of these landlords threaten to impose the higher rent amount and coerce the tenant into agreeing to a rent increase far higher than what rent control ordinarily would allow. Read more →

Apr 26


Regulations Adopted for D.C. Mold Remediation Law

On Friday, the Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) released important new regulations requiring landlords to inspect and remediate mold in rental housing.  The final regulations, which implement the Air Quality Amendment Act of 2014, create one of the strongest regulatory frameworks in the country for ensuring that tenants do not have to live with indoor mold. Read more →

Dec 18


Study Reveals Brutal Realities for Tenants Facing Eviction

Earlier this month, the Public Justice Center issued a new study examining what happens to tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent in Baltimore City.  The study – Justice Diverted: How Renters Are Processed in the Baltimore City Rent Court – makes a powerful case that tenants sued for eviction need the guiding hand of counsel in order to ensure their rights are enforced.  While eviction procedures in Baltimore and the District of Columbia are different in many respects, the study offers many observations that our experience tells us hold true right here in the District.

Only 5 to 10 percent of tenants facing eviction in the Landlord and Tenant Branch of D.C. Superior Court are represented by counsel, while over 90 percent of landlords have attorneys.  As a result, far too many tenants fail to raise defenses and instead sign one-sided repayment agreements that may inevitably and unnecessarily result in their eviction.  Read more →

Jun 03


Bill Passes to Address Mold in Rental Housing

The D.C. Council unanimously passed a bill that would, for the first time ever, require landlords to address mold in rental housing. Legal Aid, and our partners who advocated for this bill, believe this is an important step towards helping many of our clients who live with mold in their homes.
Read more →

Jan 03


Legal Aid Testifies before D.C. Council on Bill Regarding Mold in Rental Housing

Lauren Godles and I testified yesterday before the City Council on legislation that could have a significant impact on tenants – especially low-income tenants – throughout the District of Columbia: Bill 20-569, the Air Pollution Disclosure and Reduction Act of 2013. The Bill includes requirements for landlords to disclose information about mold in residential housing to their tenants. It also grants authority to the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) to issue regulations for the inspection and citation of mold.

Far too many of Legal Aid’s housing clients struggle with mold in their homes. They are rightfully concerned about the significant deleterious effects of mold on their own health and the health of their families. In some cases, doctors or other health care providers have warned the tenants that the presence of mold in their homes may be causing new health problems or exacerbating pre-existing conditions such as asthma. These health effects are particularly acute for the elderly, young children, and individuals already in poor health – groups that too often are living in poverty and struggling simply to maintain their housing. Read more →

Aug 20


Washington Post Articles Highlight Opportunities, Challenges Presented by Rapid Re-housing Program

Beth Harrison, Supervising Attorney & Director, Court Based Legal Services Project

Beth Harrison, Supervising Attorney & Director, Court Based Legal Services Project

The numbers underlying the affordable housing crisis in DC are stark:

• In the past five years, the number of homeless families in the District has more than doubled. By Nov. 1, 2012, 3,000 families had applied for the fewer than 300 spots at D.C. General, the city’s family shelter.

• The number of public housing units in the District has dropped by nearly 1,000 in the   past decade to about 8,300. The number of housing vouchers has dropped by more than 2,600 in the past year to 11,000.

 • The waiting list to receive a public housing unit or housing voucher is 25 to 35 years    long. Only 131 families of about 50,000 left the voucher program last year. This year, an additional 200 families will leave. Because of federal budget sequestration, the D.C. Housing Authority won’t be turning those spots over to anyone new.

(Figures courtesy of the Washington Post) Read more →