Navigating Month-to-Month Leases in DC

Navigating Month-to-Month Leases in DC

The real estate market in Washington, D.C. is booming, with increasing home prices leading to a high number of renters. But D.C. has one of the most strictly regulated rental markets in the country. One unique feature of D.C.’s rental market is that tenants have the right to opt for a month-to-month lease after their initial one-year lease expires. This means any tenant can choose not to renew their lease, but are allowed to remain in the unit under the same terms as their previous agreement as long as rent is being paid on time.

The D.C. government has a number of resources for landlords and management companies interested in learning more about this or any other regulation. But here are the main points to get you started!

  • Every tenant has the right to chose to live in the unit month-to-month. When moving into a new unit, all tenants are expected to sign a one-year lease. But when that initial lease expires, the tenant can chose not to sign a new one. It’s not legal for a landlord to ask a tenant to waive that right as part of their initial lease.
  • The terms of a month-to-month agreement are the same as the previous lease. Any clause in the initial lease is still valid under a month-to-month arrangement, but the tenant does not have to sign any paperwork for it to go into effect. Any changes to the terms should be made on a case-by-case basis and should be in writing, but be sure to check with the D.C. Housing Authority to ensure the change is legal.
  • Rent increases are allowed on month-to-month units. Depending on the rent control status of the building, the percentage of a per-year increase will vary. But landlords are allowed to raise rent once per calendar year after filing the increase with the city. The tenant will receive written, formal notification of the increase, and their rent will go up the following month. But be sure to file all necessary documents, or the increase will not be valid or enforceable.
  • Some changes can be made using voluntary agreements. A voluntary agreement is a document outlining proposed changes to a building and the terms for tenants. It is put to a vote by all tenants, and if 70% of tenants agree to the terms, it goes into effect. This is one way to make repairs or change lease terms for a building when many tenants are month-to-month.
  • Tenants must provide 30-day notification when moving out. As is common with month-to-month arrangements, any tenant who wants to terminate their vacancy must provide the landlord or management company with 30-day written notice. If notice is not given, they are still required to pay rent.
  • Evicting a month-to-month tenant is not easy. Although the tenant can leave with 30-day notice, a landlord can’t ask the tenant to leave for no reason. Unless the tenant violates a clause of their original lease, the only reason a tenant can be evicted is due to non-payment of rent.

More information on month-to-month tenants can be found at D.C. Housing Authority, and many questions can be answered by calling the Tenant Advocacy Hotline. As with any city regulation, it’s important to fully research and understand all facets of the law. Although these points will get you started, please visit the website above to learn more.