Emilie Fairbanks, Esq.

202 681 4694 office

202 688 1864 fax

419 7th Street NW, Suite 405

Washington, DC 20004

info@efairbankslaw.com

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Wednesday
Nov042015

Changes to DC Landlord & Tenant Court Coming in 2016

There are changes coming to the District of Columbia Landlord and Tenant Court. Not changes to the law, changes in the way court days will be scheduled. If you are a landlord who has previously filed cases don’t let these changes surprise you. You may know that DC L&T runs and “overflow” courtroom upstairs from the main courtroom in B-53. Currently, cases are sent to that courtroom throughout the day as needed to clear backlogs in the main courtroom. If you’ve been to Landlord & Tenant Court in the past couple years you might say “wow that’s not working.” It turns out the judges and clerks agree, so they are making additional changes to the system. In early 2016 the following changes will be implemented: 

Cases will be divided by type and courtroom at the beginning of the day. In Courtroom B-109, the traditional L&T courtroom across from the clerk’s office, Initial Hearings, cases coming to court for the first time, and Further Initial Hearings, cases coming to court for the second time, usually because something happened the first time that had to be resolved before this hearing, will continue to take place at 9 a.m., after roll call. At 10 a.m. more Further Initial Hearings and Status Hearings will take place. At 11 a.m. Trial Status hearings will take place. A trial status usually just establishes that all the parties for a trial have arrived at court, how many witnesses are going to appear for each side, and if mediation needs to take place. The actual trial will take place later in the day. 

In Courtroom B-53, one floor up from the clerk’s office, cases will also start at 9 a.m. This is a big change. Motions, Hearings on Applications to Terminate Stay, Hearings on Notices of Intent to Seek a Writ of Restitution will all be heard in that courtroom at 9 a.m.  You do not need to go downstairs for roll call or to hear the opening speech first. In fact if you did you could miss your hearing. At 10 a.m. Ex Parte Proof Hearings, Evidentiary Hearings, Bell Hearings, and Accountings will be heard in B-53.  

Landlord and Tenant court can be chaotic and confusing. Knowing where you need to be and at what time can mean the difference between success and having to refile your case. If you are filing something and you aren’t sure what courtroom you need to go to or what time you need to arrive make sure you ask the filing clerk to clarify for you. If you need additional help and would like an attorney to represent you in court or you would just like to discuss your options, contact us

Friday
Jun122015

Urban Turf's Essential Guide to Being an Amateur Landlord in DC

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. 

Wednesday
Jan282015

DHCD to Hold Program on Notices to Vacate

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

 

Wednesday
Jan282015

What's a DC Landlord with a Bad Lease to Do? 

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. 

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. 

Wednesday
Nov262014

Handling Thanksgiving: Advice for DC Landlords 

For individual DC landlords, the first snow of the year, cold weather, and a holiday weekend can be a recipe for disaster. But it doesn't have to be. If you are leaving a basement apartment or house with a tenant in DC for the weekend while you travel for Thanksgiving, avoid that late night cell phone call. Just remember to take care of a few chores in advance:
1) Test your furnace or boiler and change filters as necessary. If you haven't had it serviced yet this year consider dong that next week but make sure the heat is working and appropriately set if the thermostat is under your control. DCRA requires you keep the temperature at least 68 degrees between 6:30am and 11pm and at least 65 degrees the rest of the time. 
2) Make sure you know who's shoveling the snow and treating any ice on sidewalks. If it's a single family home, that could be the tenant. If not, you need to take care of it. If you know the tenant won't do it, don't get a fine from the city and anger your neighbors, take care of the situation them talk to the tenant. 
3) Give the tenants an emergency number for you or your property manager if they don't currently have one. Holiday weekends are notorious for plumbing problems, kitchen fires, and other emergencies. DC Housing code requires you have smoke detectors and provide a fire extinguisher, if you haven't done so, do it now. 
For an individual DC landlord, avoiding legal problems isn't just about having a strong lease or being properly licensed. Maintaining a good relationship with your tenant is crucial. It might not keep you out of court every time but it just might. 
Happy Thanksgiving!