Emilie Fairbanks, Esq.

202 681 4694 office

202 688 1864 fax

419 7th Street NW, Suite 405

Washington, DC 20004


Contact Us Now

Consultations by appointment. 

This area does not yet contain any content.

Check out our latest blog posts!

« Magistrate Judges in DC Landlord Tenant Court | Main | Dealing With Difficult DC Tenants »

Nightmare DC Tenants 

Recently we discussed difficult tenants. I suggested some of those tenant behaviors could be fixed by changes in your behavior. Now let’s talk about an entirely different topic. Nightmare tenants. These tenants aren’t the tenants who just stop paying or call too much or don’t tell you about problems. These tenants are a DC speciality. They are professionals. They know the law. They are playing a game. And the law is on their side. These tenants want to go to court. They want to sue you and they fully expect to be sued by you. It’s a hobby for them. The good news is they are rare. Most bad tenants aren’t out to get you they are out to protect themselves. These tenants are indeed, out to get you. How will you know you have a nightmare tenant? 


  1.  They have been evicted before, or sued for eviction before, often on a regular basis. When they get sued they fight, countersue, and make eerily similar claims against many different landlords. This is why tenant screening is so important. Viewing someone’s court history can tell you so much. If they have been evicted before the situation might be something you are willing to overlook, perhaps it was twenty years ago and they have a clean rental history after that. But a pattern of evictions over time is different and troubling. 
  2. They are always the victim. Whatever the situation, you’ve wronged them, their prior landlord wronged them, their boss wronged them, you get the idea. This comes up if the rent isn’t paid or you need access for repairs. They are never available to let you in because of a series of unending disasters in their life, always caused by another. Or they can’t pay rent because of the horribly unfair actions of bosses, the government, creditors, etc. But this is where tenant screening comes in as well. Perhaps you found they recently lost a job and therefore don’t meet your income requirement but they assure you they will have another job soon. Do they  also come with a story about how the boss fired them for no reason at all? Do they have another story about their miserable divorce and their last landlord who didn’t return the security deposit? All of those things could be entirely true. But would you tell your sob story to a prospective landlord? The constant victim can’t help it. And they are a bad news tenant. Because you are about to be the next perpetrator in their story. 
  3. They ask for things and then get furious when you provide them. They complain about roaches. You send an exterminator. They are just enraged you didn’t accommodate their schedule to have the exterminator come after 7pm. So you pay extra and have them come between 7pm and 9pm. The tenant is even more furious they came so late and she had to wait. You can’t win. Each offense gets you texts, letters, or emails threatening legal action and explaining your crimes in great detail. If you ask what the tenant would like you to do you often get....crickets. Nothing. There is no solution because the anger was the goal. 


If you recognize this tenant you are probably feeling angry, desperate, and a little crazy. Maybe my discussion of tenant screening makes you want to throw your computer into the sea. Heck of a lot of good that advice does now! I get it. But you aren’t alone and there are strategies to move you forward. However, many of these tenants know the law. They didn’t get this far not knowing their rights. So you must act with caution. You cannot respond in kind or try to quickly fix your problem with advice you got on the internet. Each nightmare tenant situation is unique. Don’t hide from it. But contact a lawyer with expertise in DC landlord and tenant matters so you can get your life back sooner than later. This isn’t a DIY moment. On this blog I often suggest many steps you can take to handle your own landlord tenant problem. My goal is to empower you to solve easy problems on your own and come to us for the hard stuff. This is the hard stuff. So find a qualified attorney. If you want to consult with us contact our office to schedule a consultation. But consult with someone. 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version