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Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence and Rental Housing for Landlords

Authored By: D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center


Do I have to do anything if my tenant is a victim of domestic violence?

If the tenant asks you in writing to change the locks, you must change them within 5 business days.

Does my tenant have to show me any official documentation before I am required to change the locks?

It depends.

  • If the offender is a tenant in the same unit as the victim, then the victim must provide you with a copy of the protective order that orders the offender to stay away from the property.
  • If the offender is not a tenant or does not live in the same unit as the victim-tenant, then no documentation of the domestic violence may be required.

Who has to pay for having the locks changed?

You must pay to have the locks changed, but the tenant must reimburse you within 45 days. You cannot charge the tenant any more than you would charge any other tenant.

What if the offender, who is still on the lease, asks me for a key to the new lock?

Unless the court orders the offender to be allowed back into the house or apartment, you cannot give the offender a key.

Since the locks were changed, does that mean the offender is released from the lease agreement?

No. Even though the locks were changed, the offender is still obligated to pay rent under the lease agreement.

Can the offender sue me for not letting him or her back into the unit?

No. You are not liable to the offender for any civil damages resulting from changing the locks.

If the disturbance from the domestic violence was a violation of the lease agreement, can I evict the tenant in Landlord and Tenant Court?

It depends.

  • If the tenant has a civil or temporary protection order that ordered the offender to vacate the property, you cannot have the tenant evicted.
  • If the tenant has only filed for (but has not yet received) a protection order or if the tenant gives the judge a copy of a police report less than 60 days old, it is in the judge's discretion.

In any case, you must first follow legal procedures by serving the tenant a 30-day "Notice to Vacate" or "Notice to Correct or Vacate," as well as filing a complaint in Landlord and Tenant Court.

For more information on the eviction process, see the resource titled Frequently Asked Questions by Landlords.

Last Review and Update: Sep 06, 2011
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