Renter Help During the COVID-19 Health Emergency
Under emergency Council legislation passed on March 18th:
- Utility companies (electric, gas, and water) are prohibited from disconnecting services during a public health emergency and for 15 days following the end of the emergency.
- Housing providers are prohibited from evicting any residential tenant during the emergency (commercial tenants are also protected) and charging a late fee during the emergency.
- Tenant and tenant association deadlines under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) – and the Rental Housing Act — are extended until 30 days after the end of the emergency.
DC’s Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) has temporarily suspended its regular walk-in hours. Renters needing legal services should contact OTA via this online form or call 202-719-6560 and leave a message.
OTA is still responding to emergency housing requests in collaboration with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, DC Homeland Security and the American Red Cross.
Renters requesting OTA’s outreach and educational services should send an email to Stephen.Dudek@dc.gov. He will respond within 24 hours or the next business day.
Read on for more information on OTA and the services it provides.
Your 2020 Rent Increase Under Rent Control
What is the 2020 rent control rate? The 2020 Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) is 1.0%. This rate is used to calculate the rent increase for DC rent-controlled units.
There are two types of rent control increases:
- Your 2020 rent increase is 1% (CPI-W only). For renters aged 62+ or persons with disabilities (any age as long as you signed the lease). There are no income requirements but you are only eligible for this rate if you have filed RAD FORM 6. Complete the three-page form, which needs to be filed only once. There are no application fees.
If there is more than one person on the lease, have both file the provision form as soon as they become eligible- either by age (62+) or persons with disabilities (any age).
- Your 2020 rent increase is 3% (CPI-W + 2%). For all other renters
The rent increase for the 2020 calendar year is from May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 – and may be applied only once during this 12-month period.
The 2020 rate is lower than the 2019 rate (2.3%). Here is a history of DC rent control rates back to 1985.
What May Lie Ahead for Rent Control
My husband and I are seniors who have “aged in place” in our Ward 3 apartment for 40 years. DC’s rent control has kept our unit affordable with low annual increases. But DC’s rent control law is sunsetting at the end of 2020. Although we believe DC rent control will be reauthorized for another 10 years, what changes are ahead?
With the focus of the DC Council on our current health emergency, we were unable to get any comments from the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization on its proposed rent control law changes.
But here are some proposals from members of the Reclaim Rent Control campaign, whose members include housing advocates, legal services and labor unions:
- Expanding rent control to include buildings built before 2005 instead of buildings built before 1976.
- To cap the annual rent increases at the rate of inflation, instead of the current rate of inflation plus 2%.
To find out more about this group, and to see their entire platform, visit reclaimrentcontrol.org.
Your Power… Information
What can you do to protect yourself in these uncertain times? Learn your rights – whether you are in a rent-controlled or non-rent-controlled unit. – and know what resources are available to help you.
Videos: The Office of the Tenant Advocate hosts a renters’ summit each September. This free day-long event features workshops to teach you about your rights as a renter. Visit ota.dc.gov/tenant-summit to “attend” the 2019 summit, which focused on DC rent control, as well as the 11th and 10th Summits, in the comfort of your home.
Tenant Survival Guide: For a detailed discussion of DC renter rights – including an explanation of DC rent control – go to the Coalition of Non-Profit 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”)
Your Power… Resources
OTA – DC’s Renters Agency: DC’s Office of the Tenant Advocate helps all DC renters – whether you rent a rent-controlled or non-rent-controlled apartment or are renting a condo, co-op or room(s) in a house. Visit ota.dc.gov for OTA services and resources.
OTA has a legislative e-mail list to alert you to upcoming rent control hearings. Contact OTA Legislative Director Joel Cohn at email@example.com to be placed on the list.
Tenant associations: Join your fellow renters in your building’s tenant association, or form one. Then exchange ideas and resources with a new consortium of tenants associations.