TENAC'S ANSWERS TO FREQUENT TENANTS' QUESTION

What is TENAC and what does it do?

TENAC is a non-profit, public service organization, entirely voluntary, dedicated exclusively to tenant rights, and support for, rent control in the District. TENAC is the only city wide tenant organization in the District. We represent all tenants.

TENAC has a four-part mission:
1. We lobby for rent control's survival and improvement in the District;
2. We testify before the Council on all rent control matters;
3. We help form tenant associations throughout the city; and
4. We hold candidate forums at election time.

What is rent control?

Rent control is a mechanism, written into law, to prevent exorbitant rents and to assist low and fixed-income tenants to afford rental housing in the District.

How long has rent control been in effect?

The current rent control law has been in effect since 1973, and is an essential part of the Home Rule Charter in the District.

How many tenants fall under the protection of the rent control law?

About two-thirds of the population of the District are tenants, and most of them fall under the protection of rent control law.

How are rent increases determined under rent control?

Under the current rent control law, rents are based on the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the District of Columbia and Metropolitan Area, multiplied against an apartment's current rent charged, after tenants are given a 30 day notice of rent increase.  Pursuant to amendments in the Rental Housing Act of 1985, enacted in 2006, the following rent increase provisions apply:  (1) rent ceilings are eliminated; (2) rent increases are limited to once per year; (3) for most tenants, the maximum rent increase is the CPI percentage plus 2%, but not more than 10%; (4) rent increases for elderly (62 or over) or disabled tenants is limited to the CPI percentage, but not more than 5%; (5) if a rental unit becomes vacant, the rent increase can be either 10% more than was charged to the former tenant, or rent for a comparable unit, but not more than 30%.

What are landlords entitled to earn under rent control?

Landlords are guaranteed a 12% annual rate of return under rent control.Should landlords not realize that amount, they are entitled to file what is known as a "Hardship Rent Increase" to bring their earnings up to the 12% level.

What is the process for tenants seeking to rent an apartment in the District?

Tenants must fill out an application form (for which a fee may be charged). If approved, tenants generally sign a one-year lease, which, upon expiration becomes a month-to-month lease; Tenants must agree to the terms of the lease, provided such terms are reasonable, legal, and not arbitrary. Tenants generally must pay in advance a security deposit (usually one month's rent.)'Security deposits are refundable, with interest, subject to certain conditions, upon vacating the apartment.

What can tenants do about serious housing infractions, such as peeling paint, electrical or plumbing problems, infestation, or other serious apartment deficiencies, or problems?

Such deficiencies and problems are building code violations. Tenants can report landlords to the building Code Inspection Division, District Con sumer and Regulatory Authority (DCRA). Inspectors will inspect the rental unit, and generally the entire building. Landlords found in violation of building codes are required to immediately correct them, and, if they do not do so, are subject to severe fines.

What can tenants do if they believe they are being subjected to unreasonable rent increases?

Tenants can lodge a formal complaint against the landlord to the Rent Administrator's Office (DCRA) and ask for a hearing.

What is the obligation of landlords regarding return of security deposits?

Provided that tenants give adequate notice about vacating an apartment (generally 30 days), landlords are required to return security deposits in full, plus interest within 45 days of apartment vacancy. Landlords may withhold some or all of the security deposit if they can prove tenants have significantly damaged the apartment (but not normal wear and tear). If landlords do not comply with the requirement to return the security deposit, tenants may sue the landlord in the D.C. Court of Claims.