Tenant Screening Laws in Washington, D.C.

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Most landlords want to carefully screen their tenants before renting to them. This process can make the difference between working with great renters who pay on time and take care of the property and ending up with those who do not meet the obligations set forth in the lease. 

D.C. landlords must follow a series of tenant screening laws to screen those renters to the best of their ability, however. These laws are designed to help protect tenants’ privacy and their right to rent a quality home. Below is more information about several tenant screening laws and their impacts

5 Tenant Screening Laws in D.C.

1. Landlords Are Allowed to Charge an Application Fee for Tenants Interested in Moving Into Their Properties

D.C. law does not mandate a limit on these fees, which the landlord can then use to conduct background checks or complete other steps in the screening process. These fees can also help landlords weed out applicants who aren’t really interested in the property or who know they will not pass the landlord’s screening process. 

2. Landlords Need the Applicant’s Permission Before Conducting a Background Check

As a landlord, you must get the applicant’s signature before conducting a background check in the DC area. You cannot move forward with the background check without that signature, which means you will miss out on a vital part of the screening process. Thus, you may not learn as much as you had hoped about your tenants before choosing the one who will rent your property.  

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3. Landlords Can Determine the Minimum Requirements They Want to See in Potential Tenants

While landlords cannot discriminate on the basis of factors like religion or race, they can set specific screening criteria that will give them a better idea of the tenant’s ability to make rent and care for the rental property. Landlord criteria may include:

No Smoking

Landlords may not want tenants who smoke. Smoke can cause substantial damage to the property that may require an expensive fix in order to restore. 

Pet Regulations

Landlords may look carefully into whether a tenant has any pets. Some landlords will allow small pets, including hamsters and rabbits, but not allow cats or dogs. Others may have a weight-based size limit or breed restrictions for the dogs they will allow to reside on their property, or allow a tenant to have one or two pets, but not more. Prospective tenants with pets should carefully consider the requirements issued by a landlord before they apply for the property. 

Eviction History

Some landlords prefer tenants who have no previous eviction history. Tenants with a history of eviction — especially due to nonpayment of rent — may have a greater likelihood of making the same decision again, which can restrict a landlord’s ability to collect rent on the property. 

Financial History

Ideally, landlords want to see that the tenant’s rent makes up 30% or less of their income. Real estate often represents a significant financial investment for a landlord, and a tenant who cannot pay the rent on a property can also make it difficult for the landlord to pay his bills. Landlords may also want to see that a tenant does not have a recent history of bankruptcy, and may look into the applicant’s credit history to ensure he or she does not have a history of nonpayment. 

Criminal History

In a multifamily property, landlords may not want to introduce a tenant who could pose a danger to others in the building — or who might cause damage to the property that could be hazardous to current and future residents. Overall safety must be their priority here, and that may restrict some applicants.

Tenant Screening Laws in Washington, DC

This is sometimes even true in a single-family dwelling. Landlords may not want to rent to tenants previously convicted of drug or violent crimes, for example, because drugs in a house can lead to substantial damage and violent crimes could put both the property and landlord at risk. Savvy landlords conduct criminal background checks to get a better idea of the tenant’s history and how it may influence that individual as a tenant. 

4. Landlords Cannot Deny an Application Based on Protected Criteria

Race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, family status, age, and source of income are all protected criteria, and a landlord cannot deny an application for any of these reasons. Legally, landlords cannot discriminate when it comes to tenant applications. If you suspect that you have faced discrimination when applying to rent a property, contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights. 

5. Landlords Can Deny an Application Because an Applicant Does Not Fit Their Preset Minimum Criteria

While landlords cannot deny a potential tenant on the basis of protected criteria, they can deny one who does not fit their predetermined criteria for a specific property. Landlords should carefully establish their criteria for tenants before putting their properties on the market. Many who work with property managers find they can put together more comprehensive lists of requirements, including whether they want to allow pets, smoking versus non-smoking rules, and what income level they expect from potential residents.

Landlords who want to limit pet ownership in their properties should note that service animals do not qualify as pets, and landlords cannot deny an application because of a tenant’s service animal. Service animals are protected by law, and landlords cannot discriminate on the basis of a disability that requires a service animal. 

Tenant Screening Laws and You

Effectively screening tenants helps ensure that landlords get quality renters who are likely to stay in their properties for a long time and take care of it while they’re there (rather than tenants who bounce around, fail to pay their rent, and leave significant damage behind them). Landlords should make sure they understand the Washington, D.C. tenant screening laws and the criteria they can legally use to approve or deny a tenant access to a property they own before getting started. Working with a property management company can help them ensure that tenant screening is done correctly and legally.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a place to rent, check out our DC rentals.

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Enhanced Reporting

Your portal includes a selection of extremely useful reports. Reports are available in the “Reports” section, and are distinct from the financial statements. Unlike financial statements which are static records, Reports are dynamic real-time records that will update with current data every time you view them. 

Scroll down to learn more about Reports:

Navigate to the "Reports" module in your portal:

  • Keep in mind, these reports are dynamic records. They will refresh to display current information every time you view them. 

Enhanced Rent Roll Report:

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Unit Comparison Report:

  • If you own multiple units (or buildings) with Nomadic, you’ll get access to the Unit Comparison Report. 
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Income Statement Month-Over-Month:

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Financial Statements

Financial statements will be published to your portal on a monthly basis. The statements are found in your Documents library, and provide a historical record of all financial performance. The statements serve as a snapshot of financial performance over a given period, and are static documents (unlike Reports, the statements do not update/change in real-time). 

Scroll down for more info about the Financial Statements in your Documents library:

The Documents area contains monthly financial statements:

  • The statements in the Documents are are static documents. They are posted to the portal once a month to serve as a historical record of financial performance. 

Download a statement to see month and YTD financials:

You'll also find a month-over-month operating statement:

Portal Communication Tool

You can use your owner portal to communicate with our team. Any messages you send through the portal will go straight to your Account Manager. When we reply, you’ll get an email notification and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

Here’s an overview of using the communication platform:

Click "Communications" and navigate to "Conversations":

  • The communications module will contain a record of all messages that you create through the portal. 

Click the "New Message" button and send your message:

Responses will show up in the conversation ticket:

  • You’ll get an email notification whenever you get a response, and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

You can reply in-line using the comment box:

Each conversation will be logged in its entirety:

Understanding the Ledger

Your portal includes a ledger with all transactions. The ledger is populated with data in real-time as transactions flow through our accounting software. Much of this information is also available in the Reports area, as well as the Statements in your Documents library, but the ledger is the most comprehensive resource for diving into the details. 

Please scroll through the sections below to get a better understanding of how to interpret the ledger. 

By default, transactions are sorted chronologically:

  • The date reflected in the lefthand column is the actual transaction date, not the “bill date”. This is the date the transaction was actually processed. 

If you have multiple properties with Nomadic, you'll see the address for each transaction in the "Location" column:

  • You can filter the ledger to look at just one property, all properties, or specific sets of properties. 
  • If you only have one property with us, you’ll just see the ledger for that property. 

The Description column displays the transaction type:

  • BILL: this is an expense transaction, such as for repair costs or management fees.
  • CHARGE: this is a transaction  billed to the tenant, most typically a rent payment. 
  • NACHA EXPORT: this is a credit we processed to your distribution account. This type of transaction is how you get paid! 

The Amount column shows the dollar value of each transaction:

  • Positive Amounts: if an amount is positive, it reflects a transaction that is payable to you. Typically, this will be a rent payment that we collected from your tenants. On occasion, a positive number could also signify a journal entry or credit adjustment. 
  • Negative Amounts:  if an amount is negative, this is a transaction that is either payable to Nomadic or is an amount that has already been paid to you. Typically this will be for repair costs or management/leasing fees. Owner draws (net distributions into your checking/savings account) also reflect as negative amounts, since they have already been paid to you. 

The Account Balance column shows a sum of positive/negative transactions at a given point in time:

  • Account Balance should always equal zero after a net distribution has been processed. When the balance is zero, this means that all expenses have been paid and you’ve received the remainder as net operating income, leaving a balance of zero (meaning: no one is due any money, as all funds have been distributed appropriately). 

Navigating the Propertyware Owner Portal

Your portal includes some extremely useful features that help you understand your property’s financial performance at a new level, with real-time transparency into every transaction.

Scroll through the snapshots below for an overview of portal navigation! If you need more help or have specific questions about using the portal, you can reach out to your Account Manager any time for a screen share. 

You can filter all info by date range or property:

View a snapshot of income and expenses on your dashboard:

See every transaction in real-time on your ledger:

Statements and forms will be posted to your documents library:

View a suite of real-time financial reports:

See a running list of all bills, and drill down for more detail:

Under Bill Details, you'll find dates/descriptions/amounts and more:

You can also communicate with your Account Manager through the portal:

How do net distributions work?

Net distributions keep your accounting clean and simple. Each month we’ll collect rent from the tenants, deduct any repair expenses for the previous month and any management/leasing fees for the current month, and credit the remaining net operating income to your account. 

You’ll receive a statement via email each time a net distribution is processed, and can view all transaction details in your Propertyware owner portal.