WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) will vigorously enforce new protections for tenants and consumers included in the Council’s COVID-19 Response Act, which passed unanimously today. The legislation provides relief to District residents and businesses while the emergency declaration is in place, such as increasing penalties for price gouging to $5,000 per violation, prohibiting evictions and utility shut-offs for residential and commercial tenants, preventing landlords from charging fees for late rent, and outlawing stockpiling of essential goods. The law also grants OAG the authority to investigate and file lawsuits against individuals or companies that violate these prohibitions.
“I commend Chairman Mendelson, the Council, and the Mayor for taking swift action to increase protections for District residents during this unprecedented public health emergency,” said AG Racine. “The Office of the Attorney General will educate residents about these protections and businesses about their legal responsibilities, and will enforce the law against wrongdoers who seek to exploit District residents—particularly our most vulnerable—during this crisis. I also fully support the Council’s decision to authorize grants or loans for affected small business and independent contractors, and to require transparency around grant or loan recipients and funding amounts.”
The COVID-19 Response Act provides new protections for District residents, enforceable by OAG, during the Mayor’s emergency declaration. The legislation provides new protections for tenants, homeowners, and consumers, including:
- Prohibiting evictions of residential or commercial tenants: Landlords may not evict residential or commercial tenants during the public health emergency. Evictions that have already been filed may not move forward and no new evictions may be filed. Additionally, landlords may not charge tenants late fees during any month in which the Mayor has declared a public health emergency.
- Prohibiting companies from disconnecting utilities: Utility companies are prohibited from disconnecting gas, water, or electric service during a public health emergency.
- Prohibiting stockpiling of essential items: The law prohibits stockpiling of items declared essential by the Mayor, the Department of Health, the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, or the federal government. It also sets a penalty of $5,000 per violation of the stockpiling provision.
- Raising penalties for price gouging: It also raises penalties on price gouging to $5,000 per violation. (See OAG’s consumer alert for additional information on price gouging.)
Report Violations to OAG
Tenants, homeowners, and consumers should report violations of these new protections to OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection by:
Additional information about this legislation is available at: https://dccouncil.us/council-unanimously-passes-emergency-covid-19-response-bill/
OAG Operating Status and Contact Info
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has shifted its operating status to telework through April 1, 2020. All OAG offices remain available via email and phone. OAG continues to work closely with the Executive, the Council of the District of Columbia, and the courts to respond to COVID-19 developments.
District residents can access D.C. Government updates and health guidance at coronavirus.dc.gov. Contact OAG to learn about your rights under District law, where to get help and access OAG services, and how to submit consumer complaints.
Sign up for OAG’s electronic newsletter and follow us on social media for the latest OAG updates: