A couple moved into their affordable Northwest DC rent-controlled apartment last year to save for their wedding. They understood that DC rent-controlled apartments are restricted to one annual automatic rent increase for inflation. This annual rent increase is also regulated – because it is tied to a formula based on the annual Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for urban workers (CPI-W).
However, this couple was taking a risk. They knew the management company had been in the news for skirting rent-increase caps. And indeed, when the couple received their 2017 rent increase notice, their rent was increased by 6% – 2.9% over the 2017 rent control rate of 3.1%.
What they didn’t know is they could have contacted the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate to learn their DC rent control rights and explore their options. They could not afford the new rent, and had to move.
This does not appear to be an unusual application of the law. The Washington City Paper has been reporting on this issue over the last two years. A September 2016 article highlighted rent increases at a local high-rise. The City Paper’s the most recent article is regarding a lawsuit over the practice.
Renter knowledge is renter power
Renters in DC’s rent-control community can take these steps to protect themselves:
Know your DC renter rights – and how to enforce them. Download the The Coalition for Nonprofit Housing’s online copy of the 2013 Washington DC Tenant Survival Guide, Eighth Edition (visit cnhed.org/policy-advocacy/research and scroll down to “Additional Research Information”).
Take advantage of what the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) has to offer. Whether you are leasing an apartment, condo, co-op or house, the OTA (at ota.dc.gov) was created to serve DC’s 350,000-plus renters.
OTA holds bi-monthly stakeholder meetings on DC renter rights, such as what to do about mold – the most common complaint about the condition of DC apartments. Sign up with Delores Anderson, Education and Outreach Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Case Management Specialists (CMS)
A CMS finds answers to your renter questions and offers free lease reviews. Call 202-719-6560 for an appointment or walk in, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Keep informed with OTA’s e-mail legislative updates, including notices for hearings on renter issues. Sign up with Joel Cohn, legislative director, at email@example.com.
Attend OTA’s largest FREE event of the year
Click here to register for the 10th Annual Tenant and Tenant Association Summit this Saturday, September 16th at the Kellogg Conference Hotel/Gallaudet University (NOMA Metro stop).
Get help at an on-site legal clinic. Participate in workshops and panel discussions. Meet with DC government officials and agency directors. And network with other renters at the free lunch.
What has been your experience with DC rent control? Is it fact or fiction?