It's been a good month in DC if you are a landlord with a live writ of eviction for your tenant. The Marshal's Office is caught up on the backlog of evictions and writs are being executed extremely quickly. That's great news for cases where eviction is inevitable but if the landlord is hoping to be paid this fast moving process can prevent landlords from getting money they might have gotten if the process had taken a little longer. Landlords have to decide if waiting is a good risk.
Unfortunately because winter is coming fast the eviction process can slow to a crawl any day so putting off an eviction is a huge risk. No residential evictions can be done in DC if there is a 50% or greater chance of precipitation is forecasted or if weather forecast calls for temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 24. That means when we get into late fall and winter evictions will stop except for the occasional warm clear day. That will create a backlog and landlords can wait for months to evict a tenant.
For now, when you file your writ make sure you are ready with your eviction crew because when the Marshal's Office to say you are scheduled for the following day, you can take advantage of the good weather.
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.
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.