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DC Law Protects Tenants During Foreclosures

Monday, June 22, 2009
If you are a tenant who has been notified that the home or condo that you have been renting or that the apartment building that you have been renting is in foreclosure, there are steps you can take.

(Washington, DC) - As in many other parts of the country, the District of Columbia is experiencing an alarming rise in home foreclosures. Most other jurisdictions where tenants can be evicted along with the property owner, foreclosure is not a valid reason to evict tenants in the District. The Rental Housing Act of 1985 (DC Code § 42-3505.01) sets forth 10 valid reasons for evicting tenants.  DC Code § 42-3505.01(a) states that “except as provided in this section, no tenant shall be evicted from a rental unit … so long as the tenant continues to pay the rent.” 

Foreclosure is not among the 10 valid reasons.  Rather, the bank or other financial institution becomes the new landlord, and there is no change in the tenant’s rights.  Thus it is illegal to evict tenants in the District simply because of a foreclosure! 

If you are a tenant who has been notified that the home or condo that you have been renting or that the apartment building that you have been renting in foreclosure, you should take the following steps:

  • Let the new owner know you are there and wish to stay.  If you have gotten notice from a bank or from the bank’s attorney about the foreclosure, make sure they know that you are a tenant.  If the notice says you are being evicted due to foreclosure, inform the contact person that you wish to exercise your legal right to stay in your home.

Complete the sample form.  You can send this form to whoever sent you the notice about the foreclosure.  To be safe, send the form certified mail so you can prove it was received.

  • Find out where you should start sending your rent.  If your home has a new owner, including a bank, you should start sending your rent to the new owner.  Try to contact the bank or its attorney and ask for an address where you can pay rent.
  • What to do if you don’t know who to send your rent.  Don’t spend the rent money!  Sooner or later you must pay all the rent you owe, or you may be subject to eviction for nonpayment of rent.  You may open a separate bank account only for your rent money, until you find out where to send the rent.
  • Keep copies of all documents.  It is very important that you keep copies of all documents you send or receive, including the notice of foreclosure, your statement that you wish to stay in your apartment, and your efforts to pay rent.
  • Contact a lawyer for advice.  If you have questions about what your rights are, you should talk to a lawyer right away.  Some people who can help are:

Legal Aid Society: (202) 628-1161
DC Law Students in Court: (202) 638-4798
Bread for the City: (202) 265-2400
Neighborhood Legal Services: (202) 682-2700