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OTA Legislative Update --COVID 19 Emergency Measure part 2

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Dear all:

First, Chief Tenant Advocate Shreve and all of us at OTA hope you are continuing to stay safe during the COVID-19 emergency.

Second, yesterday the Council passed a second piece of COVID-19 emergency legislation (effective upon the Mayor’s signature). Key tenant rights & rental housing provisions include:

Freeze on rent increases: Whether the unit is rent controlled or not, housing providers cannot increase the rent if:

The rent increase takes effect during the public health emergency;
Notice of the rent increase was given during the public health emergency, or
The rent increase was given prior to the public health emergency and takes effect after the public health emergency.

Notices of intent to vacate are paused: Notices of intent to vacate provided by the tenant to the housing provider prior to the beginning of the public health emergency are tolled, or paused. Thus tenants will have the same amount of time remaining to vacate at the end of the public health emergency as they had at the start of the emergency.

Rental Housing Act and TOPA deadlines are paused: All tenant deadlines under the Rental Housing Act of 1985 and the Rental Housing Conversion and Sale Act of 1980 are tolled (or paused) until the end of the public health emergency, and for 30 days thereafter.

(More) utility disconnections (cable and telecommunications) are prohibited: Cable and telecommunications service providers cannot disconnect, suspend, or degrade cable or telecommunications services below a basic level for nonpayment of a bill, service or equipment fees, or other charges during the public health emergency.

Mortgage Relief coupled with rent relief: A mortgage servicer must create a mortgage deferment program. If a residential or commercial tenant resides at the property, an owner who benefits from this program must offer rent relief to the tenant. The rent relief must be proportional to the reduced mortgage amount the owner pays under the program. However, the landlord may require the tenant to repay the amount of the reduced rent, without interest or fees, within 18 months, or at the end of the lease term, whichever occurs first.

Mayor’s re-appointments approved: The legislation confirms the Mayor’s re-nominations of 20 government officials, including:

Johanna Shreve as Chief Tenant Advocate; and
Lauren Pair as Rent Administrator.
Please note the tenant protections noted above are in addition to others enacted by the Council and the Mayor on March 17th.

By the end of the week, OTA’s Education and Outreach Coordinator Stephen Dudek will send out an updated OTA COVID-19 document. It will explain what tenants need to know about both tenant rights & resources during the emergency period.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns and stay safe!

Joel Cohn

Legislative Director

District of Columbia Office of the Tenant Advocate

2000 14th Street, N.W., 3rd Floor North

Washington, DC 20009

Phone: (202) 719-6568

Fax: (202) 719-6585

E-mail: [email protected]

www.ota.dc.gov