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Know the Laws: District of Columbia

UPDATED August 31, 2015

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There are laws in Washington, D.C. that offer housing-related protection to victims of domestic violence. 

Basic info

back to topWho is protected under this housing law?

There is a housing law in Washington, D.C. that offers housing-related protection to victims of domestic violence.  The law includes protections from eviction and the right to break your lease in certain situations.  It also gives you the right to get safety improvements in your apartment and building.  This law does not include protection for an eviction case brought against you for not paying your rent.

You may be able to get protection if:

  • You are related to the abuser by blood, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership; or
  • You have a child in common with the abuser; or
  • You live with or have lived with the abuser; or
  • You have or had a romantic relationship* with the abuser and you currently live in D.C. OR the domestic violence incident happened in D.C.; or
  • You are or were the spouse/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend of someone who has been a victim of domestic violence, you can be protected under this housing law if the abuser does something to you that is causing you to be taken to court by your landlord for eviction (for example, if you are the boyfriend of a victim and her ex-husband attacks you, you could qualify for protection under this law)
  • You are or were stalked by the abuser.**

* Note: A "romantic relationship" does not necessarily have to be a sexual relationship.
** D.C. Code § 16-1001(5)

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back to topMy landlord is trying to evict me because of a domestic violence incident in my apartment. What are my rights?

You can be protected from eviction if:

  • you (or your minor child) are the victim of domestic violence; and
  • the judge determines that the domestic violence is the reason for the eviction case against you.*

If as a result of this domestic violence incident, you got a temporary or permanent order of protection that removes the abuser from the home, the judge should not evict you.**

If you filed for an order of protection based on this incident and asked that the abuser be removed from the home, but the judge didn't grant you the order or you filed a police report based on the incident (within the past 60 days), the judge has the option (discretion) to not evict you.***

Note: In this section, even though the domestic violence incident must be an act that is punishable as a crime, the abuser does not necessarily have to be arrested for it in order for you to be protected under this law.  Also, you could be protected if you are being taken to court for things the abuser did to your apartment during a domestic violence incident.  For example, if the abuser kicks in the door or punches a hole in the wall, and the landlord is trying to evict you due to this damage to your apartment, you could be protected from eviction.  If the landlord is taking you to court because s/he got complaints from your neighbors about noise caused by the abuser screaming at you, this law may protect you.

* D.C. Code § 42-3505.01(c-1)(1)
** D.C. Code § 42-3505.01(c-1)(2)
*** D.C. Code § 42-3505.01(c-1)(3)

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back to topI tried to rent / buy property and I was turned down because I am a domestic violence victim. Is this legal?

No.  It is illegal for anyone to discriminate against you due to the fact that you are a current or former domestic violence victim.  The following are some examples of the actions that are illegal:

  • interrupting, terminating, or refusing to start or continue any real estate transaction;
  • requiring different terms, conditions or restrictions for a real estate transaction;
  • falsely representing that a house or apartment is not available;
  • refusing to lend money, guarantee a loan, provide title insurance, etc. or to place different conditions on you when doing these actions;
  • refusing or restricting services, facilities, repairs or improvements for a tenant.*

* D.C. Code § 2-1402.21(a)

Did you find this information helpful?

WomensLaw.org would like to thank Larisa Kofman, former Policy Director at the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for providing information and guidance on this material. 

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