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Enhancing Tenants' Rights

More than half of the households in the District rent, yet there is no tenant on Council.  This makes it difficult for the Council to grasp the importance and urgency of issues facing tenants.  The Council imposed an eviction moratorium during the most dangerous days of the ongoing pandemic, but still, evictions occurred.  The Office of Tenant Advocate works hard on precedential cases, but does not take more run-of-the-mill tenant cases. 

We have a Tenant Bill of Rights, but it needs to be strengthened.  Here are my proposals to strengthen tenant rights:

  • Fee limitations to restrict landlords' ability to levy arbitrary and high application fees, late fees, processing fees, and fees related to security deposits;

  • Require landlords to accept the first rental application that meets their publicly stated requirements, which should help with issues of equity;

  • Provide relocation assistance to tenants when a building is not in livable condition;

  • Increase the frequency of surprise inspections of building conditions by the District;

  • Allow tenants to repair their homes and charge the landlord when the landlord neglects repairs;

  • Require landlords to provide adequate security for all residents.

In addition, as I discuss in my Affordable Housing for All platform, we need to expand rent control to keep rent affordable in the District.  Rent control provides below-market-rate housing with a guaranteed rate of return of 12% to the landlord.  In Ward 3, we have a large but dwindling supply of rent stabilized housing.  Given that our current rent control law only applies to buildings built before 1976, we must expand rent control to a dynamic date, such as 15 or 20 years after a building is built, if we are going to maintain the existence of rent control.

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