Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

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.

Second, the legislation includes a requirement – championed by Councilmember Cheh – that landlords enter into rent payment plans with tenants who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. Landlords in buildings with 5 or more units will have to offer and publicize a rent payment plan program for the period of the public health emergency and one year after. These plans will have to cover unpaid rent for the same time period, with monthly installments and no lump-sum payments. To qualify, tenants must notify their landlords and submit an application showing a financial hardship related to the pandemic. For tenants who enter payment plans, landlords cannot report negative information to credit agencies.

The Council included a number of other measures to protect tenants in this week’s legislation:

  • If a landlord has to temporarily stop providing an amenity for which tenants pay a separate fee, the landlord will have to refund the fee for the public health emergency period.
  • Landlords will be required to clean building common areas on a regular basis.
  • Tenant associations and cooperatives will be able to meet remotely even if their bylaws do not specifically provide for remote meetings.

With so many legislative protections being enacted at such a rapid pace, it can be difficult to keep track. The chart below lists what the Council already has done through emergency legislation to protect tenants, compared to asks from tenants that have not been adopted.

More work remains for the Council in the coming weeks to ensure that tenants are protected from eviction and displacement as a result of the pandemic. The Council should extend the ban on actual evictions to match the ban on new case filings – until 60 days after the end of the public health emergency. Legal Aid is working with several partner organizations on needed fixes to the mortgage deferment and related tenant rent deferment provisions already enacted, and we hope the Council will turn back to these provisions. We also were heartened to learn that utility payment plans, which were pulled from this week’s bill, are expected to move forward on May 19.

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