Rent Payment Plans for Washington DC Tenants: 2020 Emergency Legislation
The Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 was just passed by the DC Council and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser. This new emergency legislation is intended to provide relief to tenants in Washington DC who are facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This emergency legislation went through several rounds of revisions by DC Council, and the latest and final version of the bill impacts every District of Columbia homeowner who currently receives or is attempting to receive rental income. Under this new bill, landlords in DC will be obligated to offer rent payment plans to eligible tenants in DC. Tenants who wish to participate in a rent payment plan must submit an application and prove that they have faced financial hardship as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19.
Pursuant to this recent legislation, we are offering tenants who are currently behind in their rent and who can demonstrate a significant financial hardship caused by the public health emergency an opportunity to apply for our rent repayment program. Qualified tenants will be given the opportunity to repay the current outstanding balance over a period of up to 12 months and avoid any collection or eviction efforts provided they strictly comply with the terms of the agreement.
To qualify for a repayment agreement, tenants must demonstrate that their current delinquency in rent was caused (directly or indirectly) by the current public health emergency and that their financial condition would render them unqualified to rent their current apartment under the criteria for which they were initially approved for the rental property.
We have created this guide to help our Washington DC tenants understand their rights, obligations, and opportunities under this new legislation.
Table of Contents
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020?
The Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 was passed by the DC Council and signed by Mayor Muriel Bower. The intent of the Act is to provide additional protections to the District’s residents and businesses during the current public health emergency.
What are the obligations of a DC homeowner under this Act?
The Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 mandates that every District of Columbia residential landlord notify and offer a rent-payment-plan program for eligible tenants.
How do I determine if I am “eligible” tenant?
An eligible tenant is one that demonstrates to the housing provider evidence of a financial hardship resulting directly or indirectly from the public health emergency: that is in addition to any delinquency or future inability to make rental payments in existence prior to the start of the Public Health Emergency; and would further cause the tenant to be unable to qualify to rent the unit or space based on utilization of the same qualification criteria that were applied to the tenant at the time he or she was approved to rent the unit or space.
How do I apply for a rent payment plan?
It’s easy, just click here and you will be re-directed to a secure online application. From this screen, you can respond to all questions directly on the online application as well as upload the required supporting documentation, e-sign and submit. If you get started need more time to complete the application you can save your work and resume later.
Are there any fees associated with applying?
No, the application is free of charge and there are no fees to apply.
Will my credit be pulled during the application process?
No, your credit report will not be pulled if you submit an application for a rent payment plan. The only data being reviewed is what you submit on the online application along with any supporting documentation you provide.
What if I do not have all the supporting documentation requested?
We ask that you upload as much of the supporting documentation as possible and if you are not able to locate a form that is requested, that you please note that on the application. Keep in mind, you can save your application and resume at a later time if needed. Please note, once submitted we will consider the application complete and present it to the owner. The owner has the right to deny the application for insufficient evidence of a hardship or request additional forms if there is any uncertainty.
If my application is approved, what are the repayment terms?
Whereas the payment plan does not decrease the sum of rent due per the terms of the Residential Lease Agreement, it does allow you to make equal monthly installment payments over 12 months from the effective date of your rent payment plan to lower your monthly rent payment.
The ultimate intent of the Act is to encourage dialogue and reach the best possible solution within the confines of the legislation. As long as both parties agree to the terms in writing then the Act allows for a good deal of flexibility and every case may be different and can also include multiple payments per month, accepting credit card payments, agreeing to apply the security deposit to a month’s rent, a deferment period, etc.
If approved, does the rent payment plan impact my lease?
No, the terms of the Residential Lease Agreement do not change. The rent payment plan is entered into as an addendum to the Lease Agreement allowing for the sum of rent due to be paid in a different method, frequency and timeline than the original Lease Agreement states.
Can I be charged late fees or interest during the rent payment plan?
No. The Act mandates that under a rent payment plan, as long as you do not default on the agreement reached, then no late fees, interest or penalties will accrue on the sum of rent due.
If I enter into a rent payment plan, will this impact my credit?
No, neither the application process nor the rent payment plan agreement itself is reported to the credit bureaus. The only way it can impact your credit is if you default on the terms of the agreement and the balance owed is not satisfied.
Can I make larger payments to reduce my balance faster?
Absolutely, if circumstances change and you would like to pay down the balance faster, you have every right to do so.
What if I default on the repayment plan?
If your application is approved and you have entered into a rent payment plan, we encourage you to speak with the Management company in a proactive manner if you fear not being able to meet the payment obligations as agreed. We want to make every effort to support our tenants through this time but it is ultimately up to the owner of the property. They can enter into a new rent payment plan with you or they can opt to file a suit in DC court for the balance due as well as hold the Security Deposit on file.
What if I move out prior to the balance of my rent payment plan being paid in full?
It is possible that you enter into a rent payment plan that extends beyond your lease expiration date and you opt to move-out vs. renew your lease. If that is the case, the rent payment plan remains in effect until the terms are satisfied. The Security Deposit will also remain in escrow until the balance due is paid in full.
How does this impact my ability to renew my lease?
As long as the rent payment plan is in good-standing, it will not impact your ability to renew your lease. In DC, your lease agreement automatically renews on a month to month basis and the owner does reserve the right to increase the rent assuming the public health emergency has been lifted. If the lease is renewed, you will continue to make payments per your rent payment plan in addition to the new monthly renewal rate.
Can I apply individually even if my roommates do not?
Please check your existing Lease Agreement, but a majority of our leases bind all tenants as jointly and severally liable for the terms of the lease including monthly rent payments. As a result, each tenant of the household would need to fill out the required application. It is possible one tenant’s hardship will allow the entire tenancy to be approved under these guidelines and for the household to be considered an eligible tenant even if co-tenants are not experiencing a direct hardship from the public health emergency.
If a rent payment plan were entered into, each tenant on the lease agreement would need to be on the payment plan addendum as well.
Can I apply if I have a Co-signor?
Yes, even if you have a co-signor, if you are experiencing a hardship that meets the requirements of an eligible tenant you may apply and enter into a rent payment plan. Since the co-signor is not a joint tenant, they would not have to meet the same qualifications for your application to be approved.
What if I am not delinquent on rent but I am experiencing a financial hardship?
If you are current on your rent but feel you are experiencing a hardship directly or indirectly related to the public health emergency and will have difficulty making future rent payments, we encourage you to apply. Whereas the legislation reads that the applicable hardship is in addition to any delinquency or future inability to make rental payments in existence prior to the start of the Public Health Emergency, we re-iterate that the intent of the bill is for owner, agent, and tenant to work together and find the best possible solution.
Does the sum of my rent due change under the rent payment plan?
No, the sum of rent due under your original lease agreement does not change. The method of payment, frequency, and timeline for which it becomes due may change subject to the terms of your repayment plan, but the balance owed will not change.
For how long must an owner make a rent payment plan available to tenants?
An owner must make this plan available for application to eligible tenants for 1 year after the start of a public health emergency. A public health emergency was declared on March 11th 2020 in Washington DC; as a result, a tenant may become eligible and apply anytime between now and March 10th 2021.
What if my full rent or partial rent is paid through a Section 8 housing voucher?
The legislation does not specify if those receiving Section 8 housing voucher payments to cover part or all of their rental obligation qualify for the program. We encourage you to reach out directly to the DCHA at (202) 727-3120 to determine eligibility.
If denied, what actions can I take?
Under the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 the owner has every right to reject an application and to not offer a rent payment plan. The Agent is required to file the application for a period up to 3 years and you have the right to file a written complaint with DC’s Rent Administrator. The Rent Administrator shall forward the complaint to the Office of Administrative Hearings for adjudication and may request we submit the application to them for review.
We are here to help you through this process and will be happy to answer any questions you have pertaining to the rent payment plan application, requirements, or procedures.
If you would like any assistance, please contact us via email, phone, or live chat. You may reach us via email at [email protected], via phone at (202) 223-9019 ext 4, or through the chat widget at the bottom right of your screen.
Please note that you may also view a full text version of the legislation (The Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020) by clicking here. The bill itself is 139 pages long, so to find specific language about the Tenant Rent Payment Plans, please visit Pages 44-45 under Section 402 of the Bill.