The Housing and Community Justice Section primarily uses two laws in their work to protect District residents: the Tenant Receivership Act and the Drug-, Firearm-, or Prostitution-Related Nuisance Abatement statute.
- Under the Tenant Receivership Act, the Attorney General can ask a judge to appoint a Receiver for a property when a landlord’s chronic neglect and failure to make repairs endangers the health, safety, and security of the tenants. A Receiver is a neutral third party who takes control of the property, makes all decisions about its management and operation, and ensures necessary repairs are made. They must be experienced in managing rental property and taking care of tenants’ day-to-day needs. Click here for more information about the Tenant Receivership Act.
- Under the Drug-, Firearm-, or Prostitution-Related Nuisance Abatement statute, the Attorney General can take legal action against property owners who endanger the community by allowing their property to be used for certain types of illegal activity. If a judge finds that a property is being used to sell, store, or manufacture illegal drugs; to store firearms illegally; or to facilitate prostitution, the judge has broad powers to come up with a solution. For example, the court might order an owner to install cameras, hire security guards, add lighting, and ban certain visitors from their property. By bringing these cases, the Attorney General helps ensure that residents of all income levels, including those who may have limited means to relocate, are safe in their neighborhoods. Click here for more information on Nuisance Properties.
Consumer Protection Issues
District law protects tenants from illicit practices by landlords like improper withholding of security deposits, collection of illegal late fees or attorney’s fees, harassing calls from debt collectors, improper rent increases, and other potentially deceptive practices. Tenants can submit complaints to the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection. Complaints are assigned to a mediator, who will contact the landlord to try and resolve the issue. In some cases, if a complaint affects a large number of tenants, the Attorney General may initiate an investigation, bring an action in court to stop the practice, and to seek restitution for harmed consumers and a payment to the District for penalties and costs.
Consumers with complaints against their landlords, or any other consumer complaint, can contact OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection through the OAG Consumer Hotline at (202) 442-9828, by sending an e-mail to SocialJustice@dc.gov, or online using OAG’s Consumer Complaint Form.
Restitution for Renters
In any lease, the landlord agrees to provide livable, safe housing to the tenants. In some cases, the Office of Attorney General may take action to hold landlords accountable under the District’s consumer protection laws for not holding up their end of the bargain in the lease. If a court finds that a landlord has defrauded or misled consumers, the landlord may be forced to pay restitution to those who have been harmed, as well as monetary penalties to the District. For more on our office’s work to protect consumers, visit our Office of Consumer Protection page.
Our office works closely with other District agencies to protect safe and affordable housing in the District, particularly the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of the Tenant Advocate.
- The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) enforces District laws that require landlords to maintain apartments in a safe and habitable condition. These laws are referred to collectively as the District’s “housing code.” DCRA inspectors can issue Notices of Violation ordering landlords to correct housing code violations in a certain amount of time. DCRA also issues fines and penalties to landlords who fail to correct violations in a timely manner.
- The Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) helps tenants who are in disputes with their landlords, provides information about the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and provides legal and technical assistance for further action such as filing tenant petitions.