Tenant Rights & Responsibilities

It’s critical that you take your role as a tenant seriously. A few things can make your position easier:

1.    Pay rent/utilities in full and on time – One mistake that students make is withholding rent until a landlord makes requested repairs. Unless you have set up an escrow account, you are legally obligated to pay your landlord according to your lease.  And if you’ve signed separate leases, all tenants count as one, meaning even if you’ve paid your portion of the rent, you’re still responsible if another roommate hasn’t.

2.    Keep unit reasonably well-kept – Regular maintenance and cleaning can prevent common issues such as insect/bug infestation. Routine cleaning also makes it easier for you to spot a problem, should one arise.

3.    Notify landlord of problems immediately –
Let your landlord know of any appliance malfunctions, reoccurring insect/rodent problems, etc. when you discover it. The sooner you let them know, the sooner the problems can be solved.

4.    Communicate effectively and responsibly – The key to a positive living experience is effective communication between you and your landlord. Be very clear about your expectation of them, and be sure you are clear of theirs for you. Also, make sure you get all communication in writing, especially concerning repairs.

                                                            Landlord Responsibilities

Like tenants, landlords have an important role in making the rental experience positive; the following are basic expectations that landlords should meet:

1. Keep units in safe, sanitary, livable condition - Landlords are required to provide a tenant with a safe, sanitary, and well-maintained apartment in compliance with local and state laws. Some units are required to have a warranty of habitability, which guarantees essential services such as heat, light, electricity, and hot and cold running water (except where tenant's failure to pay utilities causes a loss of service).

2. Respond quickly to maintenance issues - Landlords must respond within a "reasonable time" to any problems once they are notified. However, the definition of reasonable time depends on the circumstances of each case. If the landlord does not respond, tenant(s) can notify the Community Standards Division of the Dept. of Environmental Protection at 202-484-1307, which can send an inspector to determine whether the problem violates housing code.

3. Communicate responsibly - Landlords have a responsibility to provide accurate information to their tenant(s). This can be achieved by having a written lease that includes specific provisions for rental term, repair policies and other restrictions. Also, landlords should also inform tenants of anything that could affect their rental, such as remodeling, sale of the unit, etc. Finally, landlords should always notify tenants at least 24 hours in advance of their intent to enter the rental unit, whether for inspection, repair, or otherwise.



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