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Rental Property Compliance Requirements for DC Landlords


Every landlord must follow certain rental property laws, and they differ depending on which state and city they’re in. As you can imagine, rental property compliance is essential in running a successful rental business. However, it all depends on the location of your rental property and local ordinances in that area. So, if you’re wondering how to maintain rental property compliance in Washington DC, read along as we give you some tips. 

What is Rental Property Compliance? 

Rental property compliance differs depending on location but typically involves property-specific inspections that ensure the habitability and safety of a rental unit. For example, in Washington DC, a DCRA Housing Inspection is completed by an inspector from the Inspections and Compliance Administration. 

Once an inspection is done, a D.C. landlord has the following responsibility. They must make all necessary repairs to comply with the D.C. Code and D.C. Municipal Regulations. Additionally, landlords in Washinton, DC must have a housing business license to rent out properties. Here’s a look into some of the rental property compliance laws in Washinton, DC. 

Rental Property Compliance Laws in Washington DC

The first step to rental property compliance in Washington DC is obtaining a business license. While getting a license to run your rental business can seem quite daunting, it’s an extremely important part of the process. The following steps are equally as necessary. 

Once landlords have a Basic Business License, they can rent out a property. However, if you plan to rent out more than one property, you’ll need a Basic Business License for each one. Ultimately, it’s crucial to determine what type of license you need, according to your property type. We’ll go over some of the property types later, but first, let’s go over some basic rental property compliance laws in Washington DC. 


Washington DC Rental Property Compliance

When you hear “rental property compliance,” you may not think much into the details. However, when you’re a landlord, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date on all things rental property compliance. In Washinton DC, there are several things for landlords to keep in mind while preparing properties for tenants. 

For example, you have to make sure every inspection is complete, all repairs are finished, and the property is 100% safe and habitable. Failing to do so within a specific time can result in legal or financial trouble. Additionally, landlords need to follow security deposit laws, rental agreement laws, and rental payment laws for each rental property. 

Landlords also need to think about laws regarding eviction, pets, domestic violence, retaliation, a notice of entry, and more. Without taking the time to study these laws, landlords could easily break rental rules.

While there’s a lot to consider, it’s all highly crucial to landlords and Washington DC property management companies to understand rental property compliance. If you’re curious about some of the specific inspection and licensing laws in Washinton DC, here are some fundamental requirements to keep in mind.

Inspection and Licensing Requirements in D.C.

Since each location is a bit different, local laws and requirements will differ depending on your rental property. In Washington DC, the main requirement is to obtain a business license before becoming a landlord. Then, it’s crucial to get the proper inspections for your rental. First, let’s go over how to obtain a Basic Business License in Washington DC. 

How to Obtain a Basic Business License

The first step to becoming a landlord is essentially getting a Basic Business License (BBL). If you’re curious about the steps leading up to getting a BBL, here is what you need to follow

  • Register as a Corporation- The first step is to register as a corporation if your business is operating as a corporate entity. 
  • IRS Registration and D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue- Next, you’ll need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) online, by phone, or in person. 
  • Register with the Office of the Zoning Administrator- The next step is to get a Certificate of Occupancy and a Home Occupation Permit. 
  • Basic Business License (BBL) Application- Finally, you can submit a Basic Business License application using the supporting documentation. 

The type of rental properties you own determines what kind of business license you need. Here are the main types for landlords.  

Types of Business Licenses

  • One-Family Rental License- This license type is for landlords with single-family homes, townhouses, duplexes, individual rooms, or separate condominium units. 
  • Two-Family Rental License- A two-family rental license is for a basement apartment or converted basement apartment. 
  • Apartment License- Finally, an apartment license is for apartments with three or more units. 

Inspection Requirements in D.C.


Once you get a BBL in Washington DC, you must undergo a housing inspection. Some of the main things that inspectors will look for are safety and rental property compliance. If you look at the Inspection Report Form, you’ll see that landlords must meet 17 requirements and pass three certifications. 

Some of the requirements on the inspection form include unit measurements, safety features, working utilities, and more. Additionally, the certifications listed on the inspection form are: 

  • Water Heating Facilities
  • Central Heating System
  • Air Conditioning

It’s essential to understand the inspection requirements to prepare in advance. After all, if your property doesn’t meet the inspection requirements within 45 days of getting your business license, it could be revoked. Make sure to read up on all the licensing and inspection requirements for landlords in Washington DC. 

Additional Landlord Responsibilities

Aside from rental property compliance, landlords have several responsibilities to ensure a successful and smooth-running business. Some of the most basic landlord responsibilities include: 

  • Tenant and Community Safety
  • Quick Essential Repairs
  • Security Deposit Guidelines

Tenant and Community Safety

Keeping your tenants and the community around them safe is one of the biggest priorities for landlords. After all, it’s hard to get quality tenants if you’re located in an unsafe area or work with problematic tenants. That said, the tenant screening process is extremely crucial to ensure tenant and community safety. 

During a tenant screening, you can learn about their past rental history and get to know a tenant a bit more before signing a rental agreement with them. After all, without getting a copy of their rental history, a background check, and references, you could be renting to a problematic tenant. So make sure to perform a thorough tenant screening and meet with them in person to get to know them better. 

Quick Essential Repairs

Making repairs quickly is a great way to stand out as a landlord or rental management company. No tenant wants to wait days on end for an essential property repair. As such, it’s vital to prioritize tenants’ needs and take care of maintenance and repairs as quickly as possible. 

Luckily, if you have several rental properties and don’t have the time to perform maintenance and repairs at each one, hiring a full-service property management team can help. 


Security Deposit Guidelines

Finally, one of the landlords’ most significant responsibilities is rental property compliance. This includes compliance with rent and security deposit guidelines. Since they’re different depending on where you’re located, landlords must read up on these laws and comply accordingly. 

In Washington DC, security deposits are a bit different. For one, a security deposit for a lease cannot exceed the amount of the first month’s rent and can only be charged once. Additionally, landlords must pay interest on security deposits. Then, the built-up interest goes to the tenants each year. 

Finally, landlords have 45 days to send a tenant their security deposit after they’ve moved out. If they lived there for more than a year, it should be paid back with interest. However, if the tenant damaged the rental unit, landlords must send them a detailed statement describing why they withheld the security deposit.  

Don’t Hesitate to Contact the Professionals

Rental property compliance is one of the most crucial parts of being a landlord. Luckily, several resources are available to help landlords get the most out of their rental businesses. For example, if you own multiple rentals, consider hiring property management. 

Bay Property Management Group is well-equipped with eager and professional employees who are ready to help your rental business succeed. Contact us today if you need property management help in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, or Washington DC.