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Eviction Guide for Washington, D.C. Landlords

Handling evictions is challenging to say the least. However, it is a necessary evil of Washington D.C. property management. That being said, it is imperative for landlords and property owners to understand eviction laws and follow this eviction guide for Washington, D.C. evictions.

Landlord’s Guide to Eviction in Washington, D.C.

When to Evict Tenants

There are two main reasons to evict a tenant:

  • The tenant is consistently late to pay rent or has stopped paying altogether. This is the most obvious reason for eviction. If a tenant is late on rent, that doesn’t always call for eviction right away as most leases have a “grace period.” However, if they pay late monthly, do not pay in full, or are just not paying, it is time to start the eviction process. 
  • The tenant broke the lease agreement in another way. This may include repeated violations of a pet policy, breaking the law on the property, or causing incessant noise complaints.

How to Evict 

Eviction is a legal process that must be followed step-by-step according to Washington D.C.’s eviction laws. Never attempt to “self-help evict” by changing the locks, moving the tenant’s property or harassing the tenant until they move out. This is an illegal way to evict and will cause more issues for you than delinquent rent will. So long as you strictly follow the eviction process, have detailed documentation of the lease break and/or late or non-payment, then the eviction process is on your side. 

  • Notice to Quit – The first step is to draft a notice to the tenant. The notice must include the move-out by date and reason for eviction. Use a standard form from the court to file the complaint. 
  • Serve Notice to Quit – The next step is to serve the notice. There are two ways to do so; in person or by posting. While you may think in-person is the best option, it leaves less opportunity to document if you have to go to court. Posting the notice on the property in a visible location (usually on the door) is the way to go. When you do this, you can take a photo with a timestamp or where you posted it. 
  • Court – If you and the tenant are unable to cure the lease violation that is the basis for the eviction, the next step is to take them to eviction court. In court, you will need to provide proof as to why they are being evicted. The tenant will also have a chance to challenge your claims. However, as long as you have the necessary documentation to support your claim, the judge will likely grant you judgment for possession. 
  • Once you’re granted judgment for possession, you must file a Writ of Restitution and schedule an eviction through the U.S. Marshals Service.

How to Get a Tenant to Move without Evicting

The worst part of a landlord’s job is having to evict a tenant. Generally, being on the verge of eviction means there are some personal or professional issues at play. As unfortunate as it is, it occasionally has to be done. However, sometimes it is possible to get the tenant to move without evicting. This is the best possible scenario for you both. 

  • Offer an Incentive 

The first thing you can do to get them to move out without evicting is to offer them an incentive. For example, trading cash to get their keys back. When doing so, communicate properly and explain why you need them to move, calmly describe the consequences if they do not turn in keys, and offer them a cash subsidy that they can put toward a deposit elsewhere. 

  • Provide Assistance 

Offering assistance is a nice way to ask someone to leave your property. Moving assistance can be an attractive alternative for both parties, particularly if you have a good relationship with a moving company and can arrange a discount. You could also provide them with some cleaning supplies or other useful items when moving. Consider giving them their security deposit back and not charging early move out fees (only if the property is left clean/free of damage).  

  • Communicate Well 

Communicate the reason for asking them to leave calmly and professionally. Explain that if they don’t agree to move out, you will have to evict. Give them an allotted time frame to move out, be firm, and explain the next steps in the process, including moving out, turning in keys, any additional fees, and/or the status of their security deposit. 

COVID-19 and Evictions in D.C. 

Now is a scary time for D.C. residents and beyond. Not only are we concerned about our health, but our financial futures as well. Many individuals are out of a job due to company closures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, evictions have been put on hold for the time being. When the pandemic is under control and people can resume working, any missed rent will have to be made up. Stay up to date 

Some Washington D.C. property managers and landlords have forgiven or discounted rent for the time being. Others have arranged payment plans with tenants so they can pay as they go. If you’re not in a position to do so, you can encourage those who can pay to do so. Encourage tenants who are struggling to seek assistance to pay rent during COVID-19.

Looking to learn more about property management in Washington, D.C.? Perhaps you are a new landlord or a more seasoned one wanting to stay informed. Bay Property Management Group Washington, D.C. offers full-service property management and resources for your rental property.