HOW TO SERVE LANDLORD TENANT PAPERS IN DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

All evictions must go through a legal procedure. For District of Columbia evictions,  a report to the Rental Accommodations Division (RAD) is needed in all situations other than non-payment of rent. A tenant cannot be evicted because their contract has expired or the rental property has gone into foreclosure.

Any eviction must be pursuant to a court order and must be scheduled and supervised by the U.S. Marshals Service.  The District of Columbia plans to gradually restore evictions through the end of the year proceeding without the federal moratorium.

Despite the sudden termination of the federal moratorium, emergency legislation enacted by the District Council in July still partly protects District residents. The plan, which went into effect the day before the District of Columbia’s own moratorium on evictions expired, established a timeline for when certain types of eviction proceedings might be expected to begin. Most importantly, until October 12th, no new eviction cases based on non-payment of rent may be filed. 

Furthermore, the law stipulates that before evicting tenants for non-payment, landlords must request rental assistance via the city. However, most landlords in the District will still be able to remove tenants despite the restriction since most renters who fall behind on payments owe more than what is covered by the program. Moreover, despite being qualified, renters and landlords have experienced difficulties accessing the USD 352 million in assistance money provided by the District government in the area.

HOW TO SERVE THE LANDLORD-TENANT SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

The Landlord and Tenant Summons and Complaint and any attachments must be served by a competent person who is at least eighteen years of age and not a party to the case.

It is necessary for there to be attached Affidavits of Service for adequate District of Columbia process service to be done. The clerk’s office has Form Affidavits individuals may fill out. The Affidavit must be signed by the person who delivers the Summons and Complaint. After signing, the affidavit must be submitted with the court at least five days before the first hearing date, which excludes Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. The notary public or other person authorized by law to administer an oath must administer the oath. Each defendant must be named in a separate Affidavit.

Not including Sundays and legal holidays, the deadline for serving papers is seven days before the start of the hearing. Each and every time, the individual serving the papers must attempt personal service in good faith. The District of Columbia process server, as the last option, may serve a Defendant/Tenant by posting and mailing if the process server has made a serious and honest attempt to serve the person personally and has been unable to serve the person personally or by alternative service.

It is necessary to serve each Defendant or Tenant personally if the individual is seeking a money judgment in addition to a judgment for possession. It’s possible that they will only be able to get a judgment for possession against a defendant/tenant even if the server does not personally serve them.  

A Defendant or Tenant who is an individual is served personally by handing them a copy of the Summons and Complaint in person. It is necessary to check the first box on the Affidavit if the server has personally served the Defendant or Tenant. 

A copy of the Summons and Complaint may be placed at the premises with an individual of ‘suitable discretion’ who is at least sixteen years old and does not live in or have control of the premises if the server is unable to locate the Defendant or Tenant. The individual who served the individual should be included in the Affidavit’s second box. In the Affidavit’s particular facts section, describe the individual who was served the paper.

Postal and postal service should only be utilized as a last option when serving the Defendant or Tenant personally has shown to be ineffective. A court will determine whether the District of Columbia process server was diligent and conscientious if there is a dispute about service by posting and mailing. To be found diligent and conscientious by a court, a process server must try to serve the Defendant or Tenant on two separate days and at two distinct times of the day. Attempt two should be done before or after or on the weekend if one was made during regular business hours on a weekday at which time

The summons and complaint must be posted in a prominent location where it can be seen easily on the premises, which is typically the front door of the unit if service is done by posting and mailing. A summons and complaint are posted when they are affixed to the property. Nothing will work save for sticking the papers between the door and doorframe or using a mailbox to contain them. The Defendant/Tenant must receive a copy of the Summons and Complaint within three calendar days after they are posted. The three days include Saturdays, Sundays, and federally recognized holidays. All efforts at personal service, including posting and mailing, must be documented in the Affidavit, as well as the day and time on which they were made. End the affidavit with details about where the summons and complaint were posted, including a description of the location in the building and any other information that would assist the court in determining whether service was properly carried out. Provide these details in the specific facts section.

WHEN CAN A LANDLORD EVICT A TENANT IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Without a ‘judgment for possession,’ a landlord in Washington, D.C., cannot evict anybody. A landlord who forcibly evicts a tenant without obtaining a court order may be liable for their property damage as well as money damages as a result of violating the law. If a landlord wishes to evict any tenant for no other reason than that they do not like the tenant’s nuisance, this is illegal. In order to legally evict somebody, the landlord needs a good cause. Non-payment of rent and a violation of another provision of the lease are the most frequent legal grounds.

U.S. Marshals are mandated to be present during an eviction. The absence of a landlord is illegal and a landlord may be responsible for paying the tenant for their property damage plus money damages for breaking the law.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE LEASE PERIOD IS OVER IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

A landlord in DC cannot evict the tenant whenever their lease period ends. In D.C., a tenant lease automatically becomes month-to-month once the first term expires. The rest of their lease agreement will stay the same (including the rent amount unless they are to receive written notice).

If the tenant and the landlord have agreed on a certain amount of rent in writing, the landlord will be unable to increase the rent in the future. For the most part, the tenant and landlord will agree on a monthly rent amount and time frame. The landlord has thirty days to increase their rent if the tenant has not given them prior written notice. The landlord has the right to increase the rent with thirty days written notice if the tenant and the landlord never agreed on a particular length of time.

If the landlord is permitted to increase the rent, it will depend on whether or not the unit is subject to rent control on how much and how frequently the rent may be hiked. Exemption from rent control means the landlord has complete discretion over increasing rent at any time, as long as it is not done illegally in retaliation for the tenant reporting housing code violations or seeking repairs, for example. An increase in rent must be communicated to the renter at least thirty days in advance in writing.

If the unit is subject to rent control, then the landlord can raise the rent if [A.] the last increase in rent was at least twelve months ago (unless the unit is vacant); [B.] the unit is properly registered with the RAD; [C.] the rental unit and the housing accommodation’s common elements are in substantial compliance with housing regulations and [D.] the landlord gives a 30-day written notice of any increase in rent.

For the most part, a rent-controlled apartment’s owner is only allowed to increase the rent by a set amount each year. The percentage cannot be more than 10%, and the Rental Housing Commission determines the precise amount the landlord may increase the rent each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

The landlord may petition the Rent Administrator to approve a higher rent increase than would usually be permitted if the rental property does not provide at least a 12 percent rate of return to the landlord. A ‘Hardship Petition’ must be filed by the landlord in order to accomplish this.

Finally, if the landlord wants to increase the rent to help pay for building renovations, they may ask the city to allow the rate to be raised. To increase the rent, the landlord requires the Rent Administrator’s approval.

NOTICES TO BE PROVIDED IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Any tenant should receive at least two if not four notices before the landlord evict them. The first notice is called either a ‘Notice to Quit,’ ‘Notice to Quit or Vacate,’ ‘Notice to Cure or Vacate’ or ‘Notice to Correct or Vacate.’ Before the landlord may lawfully evict their tenant for any reason other than non-payment of rent or for maintaining a drug haven, s/he must give them this notice

It is possible that the landlord does not have to give such notice if the tenant is being evicted for non-payment of rent. Verify the terms of the lease to determine whether the landlord has given up the right to receive an eviction notice prior to a lawsuit being filed.

A tenant can only agree to give up their right to receive this notice in a non-payment of rent case. The landlord must send the tenant notice for all other reasons for eviction. It must be remembered that even though this notice tells the tenant that they have to leave, the landlord cannot force the tenant to leave until the tenant has received a judgment for possession from the Court.

Second, there’s a ‘Complaint’ notice. There Has to be a Complaint from the landlord informing the tenant of the formal Court case, the reason for the eviction, and the first date/time of the Court appearance.

If the tenant has been evicted because of non-payment of rent and they were not in court when a judgment was made against them, the landlord is obliged to submit a document with the Court stating how much rent and other charges they owe. The Court must provide the document to the tenant.

A ‘Writ of Restitution is the official name for the last notification. The landlord should provide the tenant this notification when the court issues a ‘judgment for possession against them. These notifications must meet very stringent specifications. To begin the eviction process, the landlord must provide the tenant with appropriate notice. If this continues, the case should be thrown out of Court entirely. The requirements include [A.] giving the tenant very specific information about how they violated the lease or the housing code; [B.] providing the tenant-specific information about how to fix the violation(s); [C.] allowing the tenant at least thirty days to fix the violation(s); and [D.] the notice must be written in both English and Spanish.

The landlord cannot give or send the tenant a copy of the complaint directly. A process server who is at least eighteen years old must serve the tenant by either personal service, substituted service wherein any individual over the age of sixteen who lives in the same abode may be handed a copy of the Complaint; or posting and mailing service wherein the process server is allowed to tape, nail or attach a copy of the Complaint if the server is not able to serve the individual after two (2) attempts to personally serve the tenant, Another copy must be mailed to the tenant by first-class mail within three (3) calendar days of the posting to the defendant’s door.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA PLAN FOR EVICTIONS

To handle legal challenges for new landlord and tenant disputes, the Court established a plan submitted on March 11, 2020. Disputes over property ownership are handled by the Landlord & Tenant Branch.

To resolve landlord-tenant issues, it is necessary to go to the Landlord & Tenant Branch of the court. Many cases are filed in the Landlord & Tenant Branch for reasons such as breach of lease agreements, pet ownership in violation of a no-pets rule, roommate or subletting without permission, or interfering with other tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of their homes.

If a defendant in an eviction lawsuit concerning non-payment of rent for a residential property offers a declaration to the landlord, owner, or other people with the right to pursue eviction or a possessory action that complies with the requirements imposed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (‘CDC’) in its order temporarily halting certain evictions, the plaintiff must not schedule an eviction until the defendant provides sufficient declaration. If a plaintiff plans to continue with eviction before October 3, 2021, and the defendant thinks the eviction is susceptible to the CDC’s temporary stop on evictions, the defendant may submit and file a petition or application to quash the writ of restitution, and the Court will conduct a timely hearing. Unless the defendant submits such a motion or application, the Court will not delay or quash the execution of a writ issued in such circumstances.

FORECLOSURE-RELATED EVICTIONS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

In whatsoever action pursuant to a federal moratorium on foreclosure-related evictions, plaintiffs should avoid scheduling evictions on or before September 30TH, 2021. While the clerk’s office cannot absolutely identify all ongoing cases subject to such a moratorium, the clerk’s office will make an effort to determine if the defendant in any case with an outstanding writ or judgment for possession is a foreclosed homeowner based on the complaint. The clerk’s office will inform the United States Marshals Service (‘USMS’) that, unless the Court issues an order allowing an eviction on or before September 30, 2021, the writ in these instances should not be enforced on or before September 30, 2021. 

Assuming the plaintiff believes that the eviction is not covered by the federal moratorium and wishes to have it completed before September 30, 2021, the plaintiff should file and serve a motion showing that the removal is not covered by a federal moratorium, and the Court will conduct a timely hearing. The court will inform USMS that an outstanding writ of restitution may be executed on or before September 30, 2021, or will grant a writ of restitution and inform the U.S. Marshals Service that it may have been enforced on or before September 30, 2021, if the Court approves the Motion. To avoid violating any federal moratorium, a defendant who thinks the eviction will take place before September 30, 2021, may submit and serve an application to quash the plaintiff’s writ of reparation, and the Court will conduct an expedited hearing to consider it.

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Sources

1. SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIVIL DIVISION, LANDLORD AND TENANT BRANCH

Court Building B, 510 4thStreet, NW, RM. 110 Washington, DC  20001  Telephone (202) 879-4879

2. Self-help evictions (where the landlord attempts to evict a tenant without the involvement of the U.S. Marshals Service) are not allowed.

Contact the Metropolitan Police Department if a landlord attempts a self-help eviction.

If the tenant is being evicted due to non-payment of rent, the tenant has the right to avoid eviction by paying the total amount owed, as determined by the court, up until the time the eviction is executed.

After an eviction Writ is issued, the landlord may demand the full amount determined by the court (plus all fees and court costs) be paid in cash or certified funds.

3. Jeffers, Peggy. ‘Opinion | D.C.’s Landlords Are Powerless to Address the Wild West Atmosphere in Their Properties.’ The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 Aug. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/08/27/dc-landlords-are-powerless-address-wild-west-atmosphere-their-properties/. 

4. “Mayor Bowser Announces $350 Million Rent and UTILITY Assistance Program for DC RESIDENTS.” Maycomb, 12 Apr. 2021, https://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-announces-350-million-rent-and-utility-assistance-program-dc-residents. 

5. Code of the District of Columbia 16-1502

6. Fill in the Affidavit’s name blank with the name of the individual being served and describe the physical characteristics of the Defendant/Tenant in the Affidavit’s specific facts section.

7. It would be necessary for a tenant to contact the Rental Housing Commission at (202) 442-8949 to find out how much the landlord can raise the rent.

8. If the lease some language like, ‘This lease will act as Tenant’s notice to quit or vacate thereby waiving any requirement that Landlord serves Tenant with further notice before eviction.’ The  landlord is not required to send the tenant the notice to quit

9. (USMS), U.S. Marshals Service. ‘U.S. Marshals Service.’ U.S. Marshals Home Page, https://www.usmarshals.gov/district/dc-sc/general/evictions.htm. 

11. AnnieReporter. ‘The National Eviction Ban Is over. but Renters Still Can’t Be Forced out in These States.’ CNBC, CNBC, 30 Aug. 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/30/evictions-are-still-banned-in-these-states-.html. 

12. ‘COVID-19 Update: U.S. Supreme Court Holds That CDC Exceeded Its Authority in Issuing Eviction Moratorium.’ The National Law Review, https://www.natlawreview.com/article/covid-19-update-us-supreme-court-holds-cdc-exceeded-its-authority-issuing-eviction. 

 

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