New Bill Looks to Extend Eviction Protection to DC Residents
During the pandemic, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented several protections designed to protect residents during the health crisis, with one of the most notable being a blanket ban on evictions.
The moratorium prohibited landlords from evicting tenants from homes for just about any reason. When conceived, the ban was set to expire 60 days after the District’s state of emergency ended. That clock will begin ticking soon, as D.C. currently has July 25 scheduled as the final day of the health emergency — though it has been extended before.
This week, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson proposed what he described as a “soft landing” for tenants who were gravely impacted by the pandemic and may still have trouble paying their rents.
His plan is to create temporary legislation that would gradually phase out the eviction protections, rather than halting them all at once, buying time for D.C.’s rental assistance program to do its work.
“If we don’t do something, then we will have a more severe consequence,” Mendelson said during a press conference. “If the goal is to reduce the debt and pay their bills with federal assistance, this does a better job of it than anything else I have seen.”
The $352 million federal rental assistance program, known as STAY DC, was introduced in April, but has been found to be challenging to work as intended. A chief problem was that the website was never translated into six common languages, which was required by law, so many people were unable to understand, according to tenant advocates in D.C. Additionally, because the application process requires a great deal of paperwork, many tenants impacted were turned off by the complexity.
For those successful at submitting an application to STAY DC, landlords and tenants wait approximately 45 days to be approved and receive aid.
A vote on the phased approach is expected this week. If not approved, D.C. landlords would be able to file eviction cases as soon as late September. However, Mendelson’s proposal would create new eviction rules that would last until late February 2022.
The bill would also place restrictions on utility disconnections, with utility providers only being able to disconnect service for customers who owe at least $600 in late bills and have not sought financial relief or an alternative payment plan.
Keith Loria can be reached at email@example.com.