Urban Turf, an endlessly useful blog if you are a DC landlord, published an updated Essential Guide to being an Amateur Landlord in DC. The guide takes you through steps like getting a licence, talking to a lawyer about your lease, and screening your tenants. Give it a read and check out their blog for updates on DC rental and real estate issues.
This looks like a good program for small and individual landlords. See the DHCD website for more information on all their educational programs at: http://dhcd.dc.gov
What if you didn't consult an attorney before you signed a lease with a tenant? What if you decided to write sometime up yourself or you got a lease that looked ok but now doesn't seem to cover much of anything? DC law is hard on landlords who make a mistake with leases in the beginning of a tenancy. So what are your options?
You can't force the tenant to sign a new lease in DC. Even when the term of the old lease is up. Unfair? Yes. But I can't change that for you. So let's talk about what you can do. You and the tenant can agree to sign a new lease. Why would a tenant do that? Usually because there's something in it for her too. If the tenant wants to add another roommate or be allowed to keep their pet ferret and the old lease says no, perhaps they would be willing to renegotiate. Or perhaps you've sent them a notice that the rent is going up and they would like to negotiate a smaller increase. The tenant may object to another year lease because they don't want to stay a year but nothing stops you from signing a new month to month lease.
Be creative. Negotiate with your tenant. But be certain this time you get the lease you want. That might mean talking to a lawyer or doing a lot of reading. Read my article on Four Things Every DC Landlord Should Have in a Residential Lease for some pointers. Either way, don't get stuck with another lease that isn't everything you need it to be.
One more thing. Make sure you business license and rent control exemption or registration are in order. If not you could have the best lease in the world. You won't be able to enforce most of it.