Legal Questions Answered By Griffin & Murphy, LLP

by Prince Of Petworth May 31, 2010 at 9:05 pm 12 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user owash

Griffin & Murphy, LLP, is a boutique law firm in Washington, D.C. concentrating its practice in real estate law (including development, finance, leasing, zoning and condominium conversions), as well as estate planning and probate, civil litigation, and business law. The attorneys of Griffin & Murphy, LLP are licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Griffin and Murphy, LLP was founded in 1981.

Please send any legal questions relating to real estate, rentals, buildings, renovations or other legal items to princeofpetworth (at) gmail (dot) com, each week one question will be featured. Ed. Note Griffin & Murphy is a PoP advertiser. You can find previous questions featured here.


I just bought a house that has basement tenant that is month to month (no lease). We’d like to keep the tenant, and the tenant would like to stay, but he is currently paying well under market value in rent. I’d like to raise the rent to be closer to market rate, but how much am I legally allowed to raise the rent? Also, is there a timeline that I must adhere to in order to raise the rent once there has been a change in ownership (I don’t want to miss a window of opportunity). I only own the one basement apartment, so I know I’m not under rent control laws for which there is plenty of information available. However, I can’t find any information about allowable rent increases for those of us that aren’t subject to rent control. Any information you or your readers can provide is very appreciated!

Answer after the jump.


As a new landlord, you are required to register your rental unit with the Rental Accommodations Division (“RAD”) of the Department of Housing and Community Development by completing a “RAD Registration / Claim of Exemption Form.” This form must be filed within 30 days of the transfer of ownership to you. However, before you can complete the form, you need to obtain a Basic Business License and get a Certificate of Occupancy for the rental unit (if one already exists, you need to apply to have it issued in your name).

If you do not register the rental unit and jump through the regulatory hoops within 30 days of your purchase, you may face monetary penalties. However, DCRA and/or RAD will normally issue a warning first and provide you with a period of time to come into compliance.

If you qualify for and have properly claimed your exemption from DC’s rent control laws, you must notify your tenant of your exempt status. After doing so, you can raise his/her rent at the end of the lease term to whatever amount you feel is appropriate. If you fail to provide this notification, the tenant would have grounds for claiming that the rental unit is subject to the rent control laws.

This response was prepared by Mark G. Griffin and Patrick D. Blake of Griffin & Murphy, LLP. The material contained in this response has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice or as a substitute for a consultation with a qualified attorney. Nothing in this response should be considered as either creating an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Griffin & Murphy, LLP or as rendering of legal advice for any specific matter.


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