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District of Columbia: Eviction Law Changes

Posted By Rachel Ramirez, Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2018

September 11, 2018

by Matthew Fischer
Cohn, Goldberg & Deutsch, LLC – USFN Member (District of Columbia)

U.S. Marshal Service Changes (see https://www.usmarshals.gov/district/dc-sc/general/evictions.htm)

An eviction in the District can only occur in the presence of the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS). The USMS has recently made some significant changes to the way it handles the scheduling and execution of evictions. The new process began on August 13, 2018. Changes to note include the following items:


• Evictions will now be scheduled in advance. Previously, landlords were given approximately 24 hours’ notice and were required to appear with a large crew to handle the eviction.

• Tenants (and landlords) will receive notice of an eviction date at least two weeks in advance.

• The personal property of tenants will not be removed and can instead remain in the residential unit.

• Given that personal property does not have to be removed, landlords no longer need to arrange large crews to appear. Instead, the locks will be changed under the observation of the USMS.

• The USMS will still not allow the conduct of evictions on days when precipitation is falling or when below-freezing temperatures within the next 24 hours are forecasted.


Be aware that the above-referenced changes are associated with the USMS — as opposed to changes with the processes of the superior court (which are outlined below).

Legislative Changes

Eviction Procedure Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 (see http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/40653/B22-0895-Enrollment.pdf) — Recently, the D.C. City Council passed legislation to address perceived deficiencies in the eviction process. This legislation imposed additional requirements on landlords as a part of the eviction process:


• A housing provider (Landlords) must send notice, not fewer than fourteen days before the eviction, to the tenant by first-class mail to the rental unit; telephone or electronic communication (phone, text, or email); and by posting at the unit stating the date of the eviction. The notice must contain (1) the tenant’s name and address of the unit; (2) state the date of the scheduled eviction; (3) information that the eviction will be executed on that date unless the tenant vacates the unit and returns control to the owner; (4) a warning that any personal property left in the unit will be considered abandoned seven days after the time of eviction, excluding Sundays and federal holidays; (5) the phone numbers of the U.S. Marshal Service, Office of the Chief Tenant Advocate, and the D.C. Landlord Tenant Court; and (6) information that this constitutes the final notice prior to the eviction, even if the date is postponed by the court or USMS.

• Landlords must now address the issue of storage of personal property. Previously, the property would have been placed outside the unit as a part of the eviction process. With this legislation, property has to be held for seven days (“excluding Sunday and federal holidays”).

• At the time of the eviction, the landlord must post an additional notice (and send a copy of said notice by first-class mail to the address) of an emergency contact, which states the following: (1) the name and phone number of at least one representative whom the tenant may contact who can grant access to the rental unit; (2) the phone number of the Office of the Chief Tenant Advocate; (3) the phone number of the USMS; (4) the phone number of the D.C. Landlord Tenant Court; and (5) the text of the subsection of the emergency legislation.

• The Landlord must exercise “reasonable care” in the storage of personal property while it remains in the rental unit as required.

• The Landlord must grant the evicted tenant access to the unit to remove personal property, and such access must be for at least eight continuous hours at a time agreed upon by the parties without requiring the payment of rent or service fees.

• The Landlord may dispose of personal property that is abandoned (i.e., which has not been collected after the time periods stated above). Disposal of the property must be handled in a manner that is otherwise lawful (i.e., it should not be left outside).


Eviction Procedure Reform Temporary Amendment Act of 2018 (see http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/40654/B22-0896-Engrossment.pdf) — Besides the bill listed above, there is additional legislation that has yet to go into force regarding the eviction process. Practitioners should note that amendments to the legislation may still be made and that additional legislation will likely be introduced and passed on this subject. An examination of this legislation will reveal that the substantive provisions generally remain unchanged from the above — however, with this legislation being considered “temporary” rather than “emergency” legislation. Thus, the real effect of the new statute as it stands is to extend the effect of the statute above until permanent legislation addressing the issue can be enacted.

 

For an explanation of the differences between “temporary” and “emergency” legislation, please see: http://dccouncil.us/pages/how-a-bill-becomes-a-law.

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