May 10, 2022

Rent Control In The District of Columbia

Rent Control In The District of Columbia

For reference, rent control refers to the rental rate becoming capped at a certain amount. Under the Rental Housing Act of 1985, an apartment building or apartment complex is called a housing accommodation, and a single apartment or house is called a rental unit. The renter is a tenant, but a landlord is referred to as the housing provider.

The Rental Housing Act of 1985

The Rental Housing Act of 1985 applies to all DC rental housing and limits rent increases a landlord can institute in apartment buildings constructed before 1975. The District of Columbia’s rent control law applies to most rental units in the city unless otherwise exempted. All rental property in DC must be registered with the Rental Accommodation Division (RAD), which is a part of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), regardless of whether units are subject to rent control regulations or exempt, the landlord must register all rental units. For any unit that is not registered with RAD, rent control automatically applies.

Rent Increases

Under the statute, a landlord cannot increase the rent of their rental property above the allowable increase. Generally, the rental limit increases to 1x a year based on CPI-W2. The maximum allowable rent increase is 2% more than the CPI-W percentage, not to exceed 10%. For elderly or disabled tenants, the increase is limited to the CPI-W percentage itself, with a cap of 5%. Any increase in rent must meet these conditions:

  • The property/unit is registered through RAD
  • The last increase was at least 12 months ago (unless the unit is vacant)
  • The unit and building comply with all applicable housing regulations
  • Increasing the rent does not violate any terms of the lease
  • The rental unit’s and the housing accommodation’s common elements must be in substantial compliance with housing regulations
  • Landlord provides a 30-day written notice


Every housing accommodation or rental unit must be registered with RAD by filing a RAD Registration and Claim or Exemption form. Once registered, the housing accommodation or rental unit will be assigned a registration number if it is subject to rent control. If it is exempt, it will be assigned an exemption number. Changes in ownership or management must be filed with RAD within 30 days of the event.


  • Federally or District-subsidized rental units;
  • Rental units built after 1975 or first rented in 1980;
  • If the property was demolished to build new property after 1975, the new property would still be rent-controlled
  • Rental units (including condominium or cooperative units) owned by a natural person who owns no more than four rental units, provided the rental units are registered as exempt;
  • Rental units that were vacant when the Act went into effect on July 17, 1985; and
  • Rental units are under a building improvement plan and receiving rehabilitation assistance through DCHD

Other Allowable Rent Increases

A housing provider may seek larger allowable increases under the act including hardship, capital improvements, services, and facilities, or substantial rehabilitation or agreement with 70% of the tenants. These allowable increases are not automatic and the housing provider must petition or otherwise seek the approval of the Rent Administrator.

Tenant Petition

A tenant who believes a rent adjustment is incorrect may file a tenant petition with RAD, which will send the petition to OAH for a hearing and final decision. Access the form here.


A resource from a list of organizations that provide help and support to housing providers and tenants including rental accommodation forms. Access it here.

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