To the Editor:
I am writing on behalf of the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) regarding a DC rent control article in the April 24, 2017 edition (“High-Rise Life: 2017 rent increases, and what I did when my rent hike notice arrived early”). Several of your readers have asked the OTA whether it’s true – as the article suggested – that the landlord must wait until the lease’s “anniversary date” to increase the rent. The short answer is no, so long as at least 12 months have elapsed since the previous rent increase.
Here are the essential facts in the example set forth in the article:
As a general premise, a tenant should challenge an unlawful rent increase, and may seek to negotiate a lawful rent increase. So, in this instance, did the tenant successfully challenge an unlawful rent increase, or successfully negotiate a lawful rent increase? Given the facts presented in the article, it is the latter. Here’s why:
There are two key restrictions on the timing of rent increases. Under the District’s rent control law, the landlord may not increase the rent (a) within 12 months of a previous rent increase (but the landlord may wait longer to increase the rent); or (b) during the initial lease term or any renewal lease term (which of course would also violate the rental agreement). Once the tenancy goes month-to-month, however, only the 12-month rule applies.
Does this mean, as one reader asked, that the landlord may “unilaterally” change the lease’s anniversary date? No. But the anniversary date is irrelevant to the timing of rent increases in a month-to-month tenancy, so long as the 12-month rule is satisfied. One exception to this general rule would be if the lease includes a (highly unusual) provision stating that any rent increase must occur on the anniversary date.
Contact the OTA at ota.dc.gov or 202-719-6560 if you have any questions, or in the event of a rent increase or other dispute with your landlord.
DC Office of the Tenant Advocate