COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.

This page was last updated on July 3, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

Its information is taken from these sources:DC CourtsDC Council eviction moratorium

COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in Washington, District of Columbia
Are there any special protections for DC renters during the emergency? How long do they last?

Yes, the D.C. Council passed emergency legislation prohibiting evictions during the state of emergency. Law enforcement may not remove tenants from their homes, even if there is an existing eviction order against them. Eviction cases may still proceed through the courts, check here for more updates.

What do the protections mean for DC renters?

The protections means that during the emergency in Washington, D.C.:

  1. Your landlord might still give you a notice to quit.
  2. Your landlord cannot file an eviction claim in court against you until the emergency period is over.
  3. Non-emergency hearings on eviction are suspended through June 19, 2020 (this date may change).
  4. Law enforcement cannot evict you from your home until 30 days after the end of the emergency period. Landlords must give you a new notice at least 21 days in advance of your new eviction date.
Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?

Yes, Washington, D.C. renters still need to pay rent during the emergency, but they cannot be evicted for nonpayment. Landlords also cannot raise rents and cannot charge late fees during the emergency period.

If you cannot pay rent based in part on COVID-related hardships, your landlord must offer you a payment plan.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  • Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. (Your landlord is required to offer you a payment plan if you cannot pay your rent in full because of COVID.) Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
  • Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
  • Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
  • Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
Can my landlord evict me during the emergency?

Most Washington, D.C. renters cannot be removed from their homes during the emergency period.

Once the emergency period ends, landlords can begin to enforce evictions against renters once again.

If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.

Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency?

Washington, D.C. utility providers cannot shut off water, natural gas, or electricity because of nonpayment during the emergency.

Renters still must pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.

Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.

Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?

Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.

Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?

Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.
You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.
You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.

If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)

  • Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
  • Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
  • After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.

For more help on these national protections, reach out for legal and financial help here. Also, use this tool to write a letter to your landlord if you are having issues with rent or eviction.

What if I need repairs?

Can I break my lease?

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me?

Are eviction cases still proceeding through court?

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