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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. 

Building safety and security

back to topAs a victim of a domestic violence incident, can I get my landlord to change my locks?

Yes, but you may have to pay for it.

If the abuser DOES NOT live with you: Any victim of a domestic violence incident can make a request in writing that the landlord change the locks (without providing proof of the incident).

If the abuser DOES live with you: If the abuser is a tenant in the home with you, along with the written request to your landlord, you need to provide the landlord with a copy of the protective order, which must state that the abuser has to stay away from you, any other household member, or the apartment.

The landlord must change the locks to all entrance doors to your apartment within 5 business days of your request.*

The landlord will pay the initial cost of changing the locks, but you have to pay back the landlord within 45 days of him/her providing you with proof of the cost.  You might also have to pay whatever additional fee the building normally charges tenants to change locks.**

See our Staying Safe page for more information and ideas on how to keep yourself and your family safe.

* D.C. Code § 42-3505.08(a)
** D.C. Code § 42-3505.08(b)

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back to topI asked my landlord to improve security in my building to help keep me safe and s/he refused. What are my rights?

If you ask your landlord to do something that would restore or improve security to keep you safe from the abuser, the landlord cannot refuse to do it based on the fact that you are a victim of domestic violence.  However, you might have to pay for the security improvement.

The following are some examples of security improvements that you might want to ask your landlord for:

  • bars on your windows
  • a more secure lock on the front door/entrance to the building
  • better lighting in the building hallway

Also, the landlord cannot punish you for calling the police to your apartment.*

* D.C. Code § 2-1402.21(f)

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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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