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Wednesday
May022018

New DC Eviction Procedures 

The US Marshals are radically changing the procedure for evictions in DC. They say the new procedures will begin this summer, but we don’t have a firm start date yet. But so far this is what we know. 

Notice: 

Tenants will be notified of their eviction date in advance. Instead of receiving a 75 day period during which they can be evicted, tenants will get the date their eviction is scheduled two weeks in advance, by mail and online. This will almost certainly create litigation over whether tenants received that two week notice properly. We will have to see how judges treat these claims, although usually claims that things weren’t received from the court or the Marshals are treated as less credible than if a tenant says they didn’t get notice from the landlord. The larger problem is that the Marshals have yet to address what happens when an eviction has to be rescheduled for weather. If the tenant again must receive two weeks notice the landlord could lose additional months of rent because of this requirement. On the other hand tenants have often gotten writs stayed on the day of the eviction because they claim they just need a couple more days and they had no idea they were about to be evicted. That claim becomes more difficult to make under these rules. 

Process:

Landlords will no longer be required to put tenants belongings out on the street. The locks can be changed and that is the only action the Marshals will consider an eviction. They are saying that this follows the procedure in other states. However, other states have laws about what landlords must do with the tenants belongings. Without other rules it’s unclear what the landlord’s responsibilities are. It’s possible tenants could sue over what happens to their belongings. Tenants advocacy groups have encouraged that landlords put items in storage. Some states have laws requiring storage for certain periods of time. But DC doesn’t. Without a law saying storage is required for a specific period of time and who needs to pay for storage the Marshals Office is creating a huge problem with no solution. The Marshals specifically aren’t saying landlords can’t put items out on the street but now if a landlord does so there could be liability if the items are stolen or destroyed. Unfortunately no one knows.

 

What Isn’t Changing

Everything you need to do to get a legal eviction isn’t changing. You still have to go to court, get a judgment, file all the same paperwork, and pay all the same fees. Locking your tenant out without legal process will still result in a wrongful eviction claim and a ton of trouble. 

 

Undoubtedly there will be plenty of people ready to hand out advice on what you “should” do under these new rules. The fact is no one really knows. Unless DC City Council decides to pass a law about what should happen to tenants belongings, it’s not clear. The circumstances of each case may be different but as we learn what judges find palatable that will guide what becomes the new acceptable process in DC. But that will take some time. Buckle up. It may be a rough summer. 


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