DC Lawmakers Opt for Phased Approach to End Eviction Moratorium

Arent Fox

On Tuesday, July 13, DC lawmakers unanimously approved emergency legislation known as the Public Emergency Extension and Eviction and Utility Moratorium Phasing Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (the legislation) that will gradually phase out tenant protections, including the moratorium on evictions. Such tenant protections were tied to the public health emergency that was declared approximately a year and a half ago by Mayor Bowser, who has said she plans to allow the public health emergency to lapse on July 25, 2021. 

The legislation creates a new set of eviction rules that are intended to soften the impact of the anticipated slew of evictions that face the DC Superior Court and tenants, given the fast-approaching expiration of the public health emergency. The key impact of the phased approach provided in the legislation are as follows:

  • Now: Effective since April 6, 2021, landlords may file evictions against tenants who pose a “threat.”
  • Upon Bill’s Signing by Mayor Bowser: Landlords may begin issuing eviction notices to tenants over unpaid rent. Landlords may also begin issuing eviction notices to tenants over deliberate and unprovoked damage to units or property.
  • 30 Days Following Bill’s Signing by Mayor Bowser: Landlords may begin filing evictions in DC Superior Court over deliberate and unprovoked damage to units or property.
  • August 26, 2021: Evictions that landlords filed in the DC Superior Court prior to the beginning of the pandemic may resume, provided that landlords first issue a 30-day notice to tenants.
  • October 12, 2021: Landlords may begin filing evictions based on unpaid rent (the unpaid balance must amount to more than $600), provided that landlords issue a 60-day notice to tenants. Landlords must also complete a rental assistance application via STAY DC (the District’s rental and utility assistance program funded by federal grants) on behalf of tenants for any rent due after April 1, 2020 before they can file eviction notices for unpaid rent. Tenants do not have to vacate their units until ordered by a judge. The ban on utility shut-offs also ends on October 12, although low-income tenants may apply for and be protected for an extra 90 days.
  • December 31, 2021: The ban on rent increases ends, allowing landlords to increase rent in accordance with the District’s rental laws.
  • January 1, 2022: Landlords may begin filing evictions of any type, including for lease violations.

Given the high stakes of the handling of the eviction moratorium’s looming expiration, it is unsurprising that both tenant and landlord advocates have voiced skepticism of this phased approach. One reason for this is the uncertainty of the actions of the DC Superior Court, as it is still unknown when the court will begin hearing eviction cases again.

We will continue to monitor the progression of evictions within the District as the impact of the phased approach develops and will update this alert accordingly.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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