Emilie Fairbanks, Esq.

202 681 4694 office

202 688 1864 fax

419 7th Street NW, Suite 405

Washington, DC 20004


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Changes to DC Landlord & Tenant Rules & Procedures 

There have been a few changes to the DC Landlord & Tenant Court rules and procedures recently and a few more are coming. Here is your update:
1) There is a new format for the Notice to Tenant of Payment Required to Avoid Eviction (otherwise known as a Form 6 or a Redemption Form). Why? The fees landlords can charge tenants have changed. You must use the new form. Things are worded a little differently so read it carefully before you fill it out.  
2) You can no longer charge tenants the entire writ filing fee at the time the writ is filed. Landlords can charge $18 to the tenant when they file the writ and the remaining amount when and if the marshals actually come to the property. So if the tenant wants to redeem during the eviction, they must pay the entire writ fee. Before the eviction starts, just $18. The reasons is that if a tenant moved out or pays before a writ is executed the remaining amount can be refunded to the landlord. It can take time, I just received refunds from 2012 a few months ago, but if you make a formal request you can get the money more quickly. The old rules required landlords refund that money to the tenant. Now the tenant is only charged if the landlord actually incurs the fee. 
3) The Landlord & Tenant Clerk's Office has announced they will be starting to scan each item as it comes it and won't be maintaining paper copies of many filed documents, such as motions. They will give the original back to the filer. As always it's extremely important for the filer to keep a paper or scanned copy of all the documents so if the Clerk's database has any problems you can prove what you filed and when.  It also means the paper documents won't be available to for you to review on the day of court, the judge can see them on the computer. If you need copies you'll need to go to the Clerk's office before the court date and pay for copies. Another good reason to keep good records. 
None of these changes are substantive but as usual failing to follow each and every procedure could result in having your eviction delayed or even having your case dismissed. 



Office of Tenant Advocate Stakeholders Meeting 4/23/2014

The next OTA stakeholder meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The topic will be hardship petitions and the effect on rent control. Stakeholder meetings are held in the OTA conference room located in Suite 300N of the Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW.

Hardship petitions allow owners of buildings that would otherwise be under rent control to increase the rent to keep up with expenses. The process is long and complex. It's also controversial. This should be an interesting conversation. Landlords, owners, realtors, and property managers are certainly stakeholders in this process so if you have time to be present this is a good opportunity to be heard.


DC Landlord & Tenant Service of Process

If there is one issue I see pro se landlords have their cases dismissed on over and over, it's issues with service of process. The rules can be a little complex but usually the problems arise when the landlord wants to save the cost of a process server. Remember the following tips and you will have a better chance of not having to start over for improper service.

1) Don't serve anything yourself and don't have any interested party serve anything for you. The process server must be a person not involved in your case.

2) Your server must make diligent efforts to serve the tenant in person before posting and mailing are acceptable. That usually means two attempts, one in the morning and one in the evening, on different days. But personal service is best so if you know when the tenant is home, tell your server and make life easy for them.

3) Details are important. If the process server leaves the notice or complaint with someone they must describe that person, as well as the address where they took it. If they posted it they must describe the door and the hallway, such as "second door on left after coming in glass entry doors, door painted white with the numbers 123 in gold paint." A photo of the posted notice is a plus. The affidavit must be notarized and filed with the court before the initial hearing or your court date could be delayed.

4) A thirty day notice for anything other than nonpayment of rent must also be served on the Office of the Rent Administrator within five days of serving the tenant. These notices require special language about that service, which I'm not covering here.

5) Give yourself enough time. A thirty day notice handed to the process sever can't be filed on in Landlord & Tenant court on the thirtieth day, you need to look at the service date. The summons and complaint also must be served timely or your case will be delayed or dismissed.

6) Always bring a copy of the notarized affidavit to the initial hearing. If the court doesn't have it for some reason it will save you time.

Proper service of process is the first obstacle you must overcome to getting your tenant evicted. Even if the tenant comes to court, if service was improper your case can be dismissed. If your tenant isn't paying you that isn't time you can afford to lose.


What's a DC Landlord with a live writ to do?

It's that time of year, cold days, random snow, and sometimes even rain. It's a rare day that meets the weather requirements for US Marshals to oversee evictions in the District of Columbia. The past couple of years we skipped right from Christmas to spring. This year the never ending winter means if you have a live writ of restitution, you need to know the rules and be prepared to wait. So what do you need to know?
1) Evictions are not conducted in DC if there is a greater than fifty percent chance of rain or, the forecast calls for temperatures below 32 degrees over the next twenty-four hours.
2) Your writ is only good for seventy-five days. After that, you need to file an alias writ. The cost is $18. Don't forget to add that to what the tenant must pay to avoid eviction. File your alias writ promptly to avoid the problems that come with number 3....
2) Your judgment for possession is only good for ninety days. After that you need to renew it. That's a fairly easy process but it does require an additional trip to DC landlord & tenant court. Judges understand that the process has been slowed by the weather but don't sit on your expired judgment for several months and expect a judge to allow you to move forward. At that point the judge might make you start all over, a costly process, so keep on top things. Money judgments are different and aren't being addressed here.
3) Be ready for nice weather. The Marshals often try to clear their backlog quickly if they get some warm weather so stay prepared, know what your tenant owes, and stay in touch with your eviction crew company.
4) Even if your tenant owes a substantial amount, you might get paid and not have to evict because it's tax time. As refunds come in, tenants may have the ability to pay off a large translux amount and become current. Can they stay current? If not you would need file a new nonpayment case, but with warmer weather ahead it may be easier to move forward.
The bottom line: hang in there. If you pay your mortgage with the rent this can be an extreme hardship but unfortunately one the DC City Council has decided you must bear.


DC DHCD Program for Small Landlords Next Week

The DC Department of Housing and Community Development is offering a program on the "First Year in the Life of a Small Housing Provider." The training will be held on Tuesday, February  4, 2014, from 1:00-3:00 pm at the DHCD headquarters located at 1800 Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue, SE.  

It looks like it could provide useful information for small landlords or those considering becoming landlords in DC. The flyer is below.  Hope to see you there!