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District of Columbia Courts

Landlord Tenant Matters FAQs

Do I need to bring anything to file the suit?

You should bring a copy of the Notice to Correct and/or Vacate in English and Spanish, for cases brought against tenants for any reason, except non-payment of rent cases and drug haven cases. (A landlord may be required to give a tenant a notice to quit prior to filing a non-payment of rent case, but you are not required to bring it to court to file the lawsuit.

How is service made upon the defendant, i.e. how do we notify the defendant that he or she is being sued?

The plaintiff is responsible for service of process upon the defendant, by the following methods: Special process server-someone at least eighteen years of age and not involved in the case; or Certified or registered mail-with a return receipt from the US Postal Service; or First-class mail-regular mail with an acknowledgment form enclosed for the defendant to sign and return to the court.

How many copies of a summons do I need?

An original summons (front & back page), and two copies are needed for each defendant who is to be served. The original and the two copies are to be presented at the time the complaint is filed or when an alias summons is being issued.

How may I evict a tenant who is suspected of selling drugs?

You must use normal landlord and tenant eviction procedures. This type of case is heard within two weeks after filing of the complaint instead of three weeks. Let the clerk know that it is a "drug haven" case.

How may I get a money judgment?

First, the tenant must be served personally with a copy of the summons. If you get a default at roll call, ask the clerk to send the case before the judge. Ask the judge to grant you a money judgment. If your cases goes to trial and you win, you can ask the judge to enter a money judgment at the trial.

How may I get monies released from the court registry?

You must file a motion in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office at 510 4th Street, NW, Bldg. B, Room 110, Washington, DC 20001. The clerk's office has a standard motion form. The cost is $10

How may I make a late protective order payment (payment made to the court registry) to the court?

Contact the landlord for consent to make a late payment. If the landlord will not agree, file a motion in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office to make a late protective order payment. The cost is $10

How much time do I have to execute or follow through on the money judgment?

If the judgment is unrecorded (that is, not recorded with the DC Recorder of Deeds) you have three years, and if the judgment is recorded, you have twelve years. Ask the clerk in the DC Recorder of Deeds Office about recording the money judgment. The number for the DC Recorder of Deeds (located within the DC Office of Tax and Revenue) is (202) 727-5374 or 727-4829. The Recorder's Office is located at 515 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.

How soon is a landlord and tenant case heard after it is filed?

You will be given your court date, usually about 3-4 weeks out, when you file your complaint. The landlord is responsible for making sure that the tenant receives notice of the lawsuit. The landlord must use a process server to serve the tenant with a copy of the complaint. The tenant must be served at least 7 days, not counting Sundays and legal holidays, before the court date.

I cannot afford to pay the court costs and filing fees. Is there a way to waive the fees?

You can file an Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Costs in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. You will be required to provide information about your income and expenses, and a judge will review the application to see if you qualify.

I have a judgment or a default against my tenant. How do I to evict the tenant?

You must use court process to evict the tenant. To do this, you must wait at least forty-eight hours after entry of a judgment or a default before you return to the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office to file a writ of restitution, which orders the eviction of the tenant. If you have a "default," you must turn the "default" into a "judgment" by filing a Servicemembers affidavit with the court certifying that the tenant is not on active duty with the military or other government service.

If I am a tenant, how can I get the landlord to make repairs to my home?

If a landlord fails to make repairs after a tenant notifies the landlord about the need for repairs, the tenant has several options. A tenant may sue their landlord for DC Housing Code violations by filing a complaint and summons with the Civil Actions Branch Clerk's Office, Moultrie Courthouse, Room 5000.

Is there anything I can do to stop my landlord from evicting me after a judgment is entered?

You can ask the court to stop the eviction by filing an Application to Stay Execution of the Writ of Restitution in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. If the reason the landlord sued you is because you owe rent, you can avoid eviction by paying the landlord all of the rent and court costs that you owe as of the day the you make the payment. (This includes the rent that has come due since the time the landlord filed the lawsuit.) If you bring your account current with the landlord, the landlord cannot evict you unless he or she brings a new lawsuit.

May I pay my rent into the court registry until the repairs are made?

If your landlord has sued you in Landlord and Tenant Court, you can ask the court to allow you to pay your rent into the registry of the court until the case is over or as part of an agreement settling the case. The Court's Registry is a court-monitored bank account set aside for tenants to make rental payments (called protective order payments). If you do not have a case in Landlord and Tenant Court, you cannot pay your rent into the court registry.

May I sue the landlord for damage to property?

If you are already involved in a non-payment of rent case in Landlord and Tenant, you can file a counterclaim, recoupment, or setoff to collect money from your landlord for part or all of the rent that you paid in the past when the apartment or house was in need of repair. You can also collect money to reimburse you for the costs of repairs that you have personally made to the apartment or house.

The first time I heard anything about a lawsuit against me was when I received a writ of restitution (eviction notice) in the mail. What can I do?

If you do not believe that you should be evicted, you can come to court immediately and file an Application to Stay Execution of the Writ of Restitution in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. You may also want to file a motion to ask the court to vacate the judgment so that you can present defenses you have to the case. The cost for the motion is $10.

What can I do if my tenant misses a protective order payment?

You can file a motion with the court asking the court to enter a judgment for possession against the tenant. The cost for the motion is $10.

What happens on the court date?

Court begins at 9:00 a.m., when the judge makes important announcements about what will happen in court and the parties' rights. After these announcements, the courtroom clerk calls roll and parties must answer that they are "present" and state their names. Failure of a tenant to appear may result in a default. Failure of landlord to appear may result in a dismissal. When both parties appear, they may attempt to resolve their differences by entering into a written agreement.

What is a judgment for possession?

A judgment for possession entitles the landlord to evict the tenant.

What is a money judgment?

If the landlord sues the tenant for possession because the tenant owes rent, the landlord can also request that the tenant be required to pay the back rent and any other monies due, such as late fees. If the landlord makes this kind of request, he or she is asking for a money judgment.

What is the current interest rate on judgments?

The interest rate on judgments is two percent (2%) for the calendar quarter beginning October 1, 2020(DC Code §28-3302(c)). Pursuant to DC Code §28-3302(b), this rate does not apply to judgments against the District of Columbia or its employees acting within the scope of their employment. In such situations the judgment interest rate remains 4%. The new interest rate is for post judgments only.

What may be done if the landlord fails to complete repairs on time?

If your landlord agreed to make repairs as part of a consent judgment agreement or settlement agreement, you can contact the landlord to find out what is causing the delay and attempt to work out additional terms. If you cannot work the problem out yourself, you can go to the Clerk's Office at least one day after the repairs were scheduled to be completed. The clerk will give you a form to complete instructing the landlord to return to court because of the lack of repairs.

What may the landlord do if the tenant fails to make his or her rental payments according to a consent judgment agreement approved by the judge or interview and judgment officer?

If the tenant fails to make a payment according to a consent judgment agreement, the landlord may obtain an application to terminate the stay of execution from the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. If a stay is terminated, it subjects the tenant to eviction procedures.

What may the landlord do if the tenant fails to make his or her rental payments according to a settlement agreement?

If the tenant fails to make a payment according to a payment schedule in a settlement agreement, the landlord can file a motion in the Landlord and Tenant's Clerk's office asking that the court enter a judgment so that the landlord can evict the tenant. The cost for the motion is $10.

What should I do if I cannot meet a payment plan that I agreed to?

You can contact the landlord and ask for an extension of time. If you are not able to work something out with the landlord, you can ask the court to give you more time. However, in most cases a judge will not change the dates that payments are due in a written payment plan, even if you have a very good reason for why you cannot pay on time.

What types of cases are filed in the Civil Clerks Office and what are the filing fees?

"Civil law suits where the monetary amount exceeds $5,000 and cases where parties are requesting equitable relief (e.g. temporary restraining order or injunctive relief) are filed in the Civil Clerk's Office, Room 5000 in the Moultrie Courthouse. The filing fee for a new complaint is $120.
Temporary Restraining Order $160
Petition to Change Name $60
Petition to Amend Birth Certificate $60

What will happen if the landlord does not agree on the dates when I can pay the rent, when repairs will be made, or other items?

If you cannot reach an agreement with your landlord, you can ask a court-trained mediator to help you work out an agreement. You also have the right to take your case in front of the judge. The judge cannot force the landlord to accept payment dates or other terms that the landlord does not agree to. But, if you have defenses to the landlord's claims, you can ask the court for a trial. However, if you do not have any defenses, the judge may enter a judgment against you.

When can I sue in Landlord and Tenant Court?

A landlord or other person can sue in Landlord and Tenant whenever a person or company is in possession of property but does not have a legal right to be there. Tenants may lose their right to possession by failing to pay rent, violating the lease, violating the housing code, running a "drug-haven," or for certain other reasons recognized by the law. Cases can also be filed to evict trespassers, squatters, and others who do not have a legal right to possess the property.

Who can sue in Landlord and Tenant Court?

Only landlords or others who want to evict a tenant or another occupant from their property can sue in Landlord and Tenant Court. A person or company seeking to evict a tenant or other occupant can file a Complaint for Possession in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. If a landlord only wants to sue for rent or other damages (but not possession of the property), the landlord must bring suit in Small Claims or the Civil Actions Branch. Tenants who wish to sue their landlords must bring suit in Small Claims or the Civil Actions Branch.

Why must I pay an additional $18.00 for a second writ of restitution to evict a tenant?

After a writ of restitution has been filed in the Landlord and Tenant clerk's office and the US Marshal has not evicted the tenant within the applicable 75 days, only an additional $18.00 is required for a second writ of restitution, $8.00 for the US Marshal fee and $10 for the clerk's. Any questions regarding eviction procedures must be directed to the US marshal. The US marshal's office is located on the C level in the main building of the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse. Only a landlord and tenant judge may set aside the $10 clerk's fee.