What You Need To Know About Eviction in the District of Columbia

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The District of Columbia state law requires landlords to follow certain judicial processes to evict a tenant. They must provide their tenants with written notice of 3-20 days to vacate the premises before they can file an eviction lawsuit. 
Considering the skyrocketing housing market, unstable employment atmosphere, and uncertainty about what other surprises the COVID-19 pandemic may bring, eviction is a real concern for many tenants across the country. 
While the idea of being evicted is scary, there are steps you can take to avoid it. That’s why Jerry, the super app for car and renters insurance, has created a guide on everything you need to know about eviction laws in Washington, D.C., including how you can be evicted, what the process looks like, and how to protect yourself from eviction. 
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Washington, D.C. eviction 101: three ways you can be evicted 

Every eviction is slightly different in circumstance, but no matter the cause, a landlord must provide a notice giving the tenant 3-20 days to vacate the property, depending on the eviction type. If this period passes and the tenant hasn’t vacated, the landlord can file for an “unlawful detainer action,” which begins an eviction lawsuit. 
Here are the three ways you can be evicted and the amount of time your landlord must provide you to vacate: 
  • Nonpayment of rent (must owe more than $600): If you owe more than $600 of rent to your landlord, they can provide you with a written notice that gives you 14 days to pay what’s owed to avoid eviction. 
  • Violation of a term in the lease of rental agreement: if you’ve broken one of the lease terms, like smoking where you shouldn’t be, causing damage to the unit, or keeping a pet on pet-free premises, the landlord can provide you with a 10 day written notice to resolve the issue before the landlord goes forward with an eviction. 
  • Tenant performed an illegal act within the rental unit: If you’re conducting illegal activities in your unit or being an unreasonable nuisance, the landlord can provide you with a three-day written notice to quit. You must leave the premises in that time frame to avoid going to court for eviction. 
Washington, D.C., state law prohibits landlords from evicting their tenants without cause during the terms of their lease, but landlords may give tenants a written notice of 20 days to vacate the premises if they stay just a day past their agreement. The landlord can proceed with an eviction lawsuit if the tenant doesn’t leave within this timeframe. 
Key Takeaway Your landlord can legally go forward with eviction if they have a valid cause and provide a written notice with the appropriate amount of time to vacate. 

A timeline of eviction in Washington, D.C.

Your landlord must give you the appropriate number of days' notice before they can file an eviction lawsuit, but how long will the lawsuit take? If you’re facing a potential eviction in Washington, D.C., here’s how long the whole process typically takes: 
StepHow long it typically takesWhat to expect
Written notice from landlord3-20 days
Summons and ComplaintImmediately, up to 2 days before hearingTenant is served complaint and summons. They can’t be served by their landlord.
Tenant response7-30 daysYou’ll have seven to 30 days to submit the required response to the complaint
HearingA few days to weeks, depending on court availabilityThe court will rule on the case, based on the landlord’s information and the tenant’s response.
EvictionWithin 3-5 days after hearingIf the landlord wins, the tenant must move out. Tenants who failed to pay have five days to move out, while all other tenants have three days.
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As you can see from the table above, the eviction process in Washington, D.C., can have an unpredictable timeline based on how quickly the eviction is filed, the tenant is served and responds, and how soon the court is available. Tenants may have a few days to over a month before they’re evicted, so it’s important to understand your position in case a notice is provided. 

How to resist eviction in Washington, D.C. 

If your landlord leaves a written notice for eviction on your door, you aren’t powerless! You can stand up for yourself and push back, especially if you feel that your landlord is in the wrong. Here are a few ways to resist eviction: 
  • Fix the problem causing the eviction: If you can fix the problem your landlord has cited as the cause for your eviction notice, it’s a good idea to resolve it. This could mean borrowing money to pay rent, calling up a handyman, or giving your pet to a trusted family member until your lease is up. 
  • Recognize if your landlord has made a mistake: Did your landlord give you the wrong number of days to vacate, fail to give notice at all, or even shut off your utilities? All of these are examples of failing to follow judicial procedures. If your landlord doesn’t follow the law to a T, your case may be thrown out. 
  • Point out that your landlord didn’t maintain their unit: If you’ve complained to your landlord about mold, leaky faucets, crumbling foundations, or anything else, and your landlord ignored your requests for a solution, they can’t reasonably evict you for these reasons. Make sure you document requests and your landlord’s failure to address the situation for evidence during your hearing. 
  • Listen to your gut if you think you’ve been discriminated against:  It’s illegal for a Washington, D.C., landlord to evict anyone based on race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and more. If you’re suspicious that your eviction may have something to do with your identity, document the evidence and bring it up in court. 
Depending on the defense you use, your case could be thrown out, and you may even be able to sue your landlord for damages outright; plus, you’ll avoid being kicked out of your home. 

How to save money on Washington, D.C., car and renters insurance 

The current economic climate can make it tough for tenants everywhere to pay their rent each month, so saving on expenses elsewhere is more important than ever. 
Thankfully, Jerry, the insurance comparison and shopping super app, can help you save money on car and renters insurance to lighten the load. 
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