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“Lease renewal help!”

by Prince Of Petworth March 29, 2017 at 1:30 pm 55 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jim Havard

“I live in a group house and my landlord is renewing the one-year leases for all of our roommates with the exception of one because he wants his friend to move into her room. She hasn’t violated any house rules so there’s no retaliatory action involved. Does he have the right to refuse her lease renewal?”

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  • navyard

    Yes and the rest of you have the right to refuse to sign your leases unless she is included.

    • James W.

      There’s no need for anyone to sign any lease. Just continue to pay the stated rent on time and do NOT commit any lease violations. You cannot be evicted in DC just because your landlord wants someone else to move in. The only legal reason would be if s/he was moving into the unit or if the eviction was necessary to make improvements to the property. No need to do anything. But make sure to be extra careful in not violating any lease terms and continuing to pay in full and on time.

      • KPS

        @JamesW: What you’ve cited is very interesting and I never knew this. Can I throw a quick scenario out to you? A couple years ago my landlords asked me to end my tenancy after about 18months because the wife was pregnant and wanted a family member to occupy the apartment and help out when the baby was born (basement apartment, aka “mother-in-law suite”). They gave me plenty of notice (about 2 months IIRC) but I chose to go ahead and leave the next month as I was planning to do some travel and volunteerism over the summer anyway. There were no hard feelings on my end AT ALL. So, based on what you described above if I had WANTED to could I have refused to leave and cited the DC law? Or is the law different when the tenancy is in a private home? I’m only asking out of curiosity and for the sake of knowledge.

        • AJ

          I think your case is different, as your landlord was presumably seeking to discontinue its use as a rental unit and/or reclaim it for personal use (2 of the 10 ways a landlord can evict a tenant in DC) – but they may have been legally required to give you 3 months’ notice.

          See: https://ota.dc.gov/page/guide-eviction

          • SW 20011

            It has to be him or a family member. Booting someone “for a friend” doesn’t count.

          • HaileUnlikely

            FWIW I think this is something of a gray area in the law. It would very clearly be a violation for the landlord to boot the current tenant and then *rent* it to his friend, but I think it would be less clear if the landlord wants to remove the unit from the rental market and then allow his friend to stay there free of charge (i.e., between the grey area in what constitutes “personal use” and in what constitutes “discontinue rental,” I think it is a plausible argument.

  • t-digs

    huh? So male roommate, wants female roommate to live there on the lease? You say she has not broken any house rules …isn’t living there without a lease breaking a house rule? Is the male occupant still planning on staying so it would be 2 people in one of the bedrooms? So would this be a sub lease?

    Anyone else confused here?

    • Ava16

      I read it as the landlord wants his friend to move into the girl’s room, not another roommate.

    • Truxtoner

      I think you are definitely confused. That’s not what anything says.

      • FridayGirl

        +1. t-digs is completely off base with his entire comment.

    • OldinAM

      I’m indeed confused too. I read it as the landlord wanting the room vacated so a friend of us can move into it. So that’s why he doesn’t want to renew the lease of the woman who leases the room now.

      • KPS

        YES. You have it correct.

    • Anon

      Uh girl owner wants to kick out has a lease, hence the issue being not wanting to renew that lease. Presuming this group house is in D.C., they can go month to month after the lease is up, so don’t have to sign a new one. What are you saying she is violating again???

      • Truxtoner

        Again, that isn’t what the OP said.

        There is nothing confusing about this. The landlord wants a tenant to move out, so he is refusing to let her renew the lease. Why he wants that or the fact others also rent rooms in the house is really sort of irrelevant here.

        A landlord to my knowledge has no obligation to renew a lease. If the group house isn’t all on one group lease and they are individual leases, he can simply say he doesn’t want to renew it so long as it is not for some discriminatory purpose.

        Going month to month has nothing to do with the issue here.

        • FridayGirl

          Except it does because the initial alternative several people proposed was to go month-to-month if landlord wouldn’t let tenant renew the lease. Which is how we got to the month-to-month thing. (But yes, I think you’re saying what most other people were also saying/alluding to below.)

        • Anonymous

          “Going month to month has nothing to do with the issue here.”
          It has everything to do with it. Going month-to-month is the default course of action when an existing lease expires and no renewal lease is signed. It doesn’t matter whether there’s no new lease because the landlord didn’t offer it or because the tenant didn’t accept it. In either case the tenant can stay and the existing lease converts to month-to-month. To put this another way, the landlord’s refusal to renew the lease (for any reason, discriminatory or not) does not mean that the tenant has to move out.

  • PrkVwRes

    ^^the above commenter’s rec is probably the better route to go, but also per DC housing, she has first right to sign a new lease. She can file a compliant with DC housing.

  • 11th St.

    Do you live in DC? If so, there’s no need for you to sign a new one-year lease, your lease automatically becomes month to month.

  • mmm

    yes, after 1 year a lease should automatically go to month to month in DC. No need for anyone to sign anything.

  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    Hahaha, what! No, he cannot do that. I believe the only way he could pull that off is if he, himself was going to move into the room.

  • textdoc

    I think the landlord is allowed to kick out one of the house occupants (after the initial lease runsout ) only if he’s moving into the room himself — not if he just wants to let his friend move in.
    I’d contact the D.C. OTA (Office of the Tenant Advocate) if I were you.
    Also, ditto what 11th Street said — your lease automatically goes month-to-month; you don’t have to renew it. (Though your landlord can offer you the option of, say, staying month-to-month at a new rent of $1100/month (after 30 days’ notice) vs. signing a new 12-month lease and remaining at $1000/month.)

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      Yeah, I think that’s what people are missing about signing a new lease. You might sign a lease to guarantee the same rent or close to it for another year, whereas if you go month-to-month the landlord could jack the rent up.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think people are missing this, it’s just not really the main point here. The landlord can’t force her out by refusing to renew her lease is the main point.

        • FridayGirl

          Missing it generally in our many discussion about renting — that’s what I thought Formerly ParkViewRes meant. (This has come up numerous times recently, it seems, and people should be aware while we’re semi-on-topic, imo.)

          • Formerly ParkViewRes

            Exactly. And this situation is dicey at best. So let’s say they’re like no, we’re not saying a new lease, we don’t have to. I could see this LL saying okay fine, I am raising your rent by $1000.

          • Anonymous

            OK, I see it as a general point of observation. But there is a limit to how much the landlord can raise your rent when you go month-to-month though, and a landlord who is willing to do that is probably going to do it anyway. It doesn’t seem like a key point in this situation to me.

          • Anon

            It’s been a long time since I’ve been a renter, but I’m pretty sure D.C. has serious limits on how much the rent can be raised, at least for this kind of housing.

          • James W.

            If the unit is under rent control, there’s no way $1,000 increment is going to pass. Even if the unit is exempt, such an outrageous increase is almost definitely going to be seen as retaliation by the landlord. You can’t try to evict a tenant via retaliatory rent increases.

        • textdoc

          Correct, but it sounds like the OP (and the landlord, for that matter) might not be aware that none of them need to be “renewing” their leases — their leases automatically go month-to-month.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, I and other posters have covered that pretty thoroughly in other comments. My comment here was a direct response to what Formerly ParkViewRes said.

  • anon

    Setting aside various legal rights that the landlord and tenant can assert, this strikes me as a situation where the best solution is to begin to look for another place to live. Since anything else is going to end in conflict that makes the rental less appealing than it probably currently is.

    • textdoc

      That crossed my mind too… but I think it depends on how intent the landlord is on moving his friend into one of the rooms. If the tenants inform the landlord that he’s not legally allowed to do that and he says, “Oops, my bad; I didn’t know that” then everything could proceed without much fuss.

      • FridayGirl

        +1. This might just be the landlord being, well, dumb. It might also turn out that he’s a huge jackass, in which case, yes, OP and other roommates may just want to move.

        • Hill Denizen

          Kicking someone out of the place they live so you can move a buddy in sounds pretty jackass-ish to me.

    • dcd

      Yes, this. Sometimes, what is legal is less important than what the best solution is.

      • Anon

        True. But several people finding a new group house and moving their stuff isn’t a simple inconvenience, either.

    • chai_town

      So actually, your landlord cannot evict anyone out of the apartment unless the landlord plans to evict everyone and occupy the house him/herself for one entire year, and he/she can receive no income from renting out any part of the house during that year. So no need to move out, but just to let the landlord know that’s not allowed.

      And you don’t even have to renew a one-year lease unless you personally want to. You are all allowed to stay on the same lease, month to month. A landlord cannot evict you after one year unless he has legal grounds, and it doesn’t sound like he does.

  • Anonymous

    This sounds like it could be a landlord who a) either doesn’t know what he is doing, b) is taking advantage of tenants who don’t know what they’re doing, or c) both.
    First, none of you have to sign a new lease in order to stay. In DC, when leases expire, they automatically go month-to-month. Of course, you can *choose* to sign a new lease if you want, or you can *choose* to move out. But you as a tenant don’t have to do either.
    Second, there are limited reasons that a landlord can force you to leave, and their desire to free up space for a friend isn’t one of them.
    There is of course the issue of whether you or your housemates want to live with a landlord who seems to be a plonker. I tend to avoid people like that for my own sanity, but of course it’s not necessarily easy to just up and move. But, once you go month-to-month (as is your right), at least you’re not long-lease-bound if you find a better situation to move into.

  • Anon X

    Uh no. And this guy sounds like a d-bag.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Clarification question for OP. Not relevant to questions of anybody’s legal rights, but just to help me understand the living situation. Does the landlord also live there, i.e., rent out other bedrooms and access to the common areas in his own home that he himself also lives in? I admittedly don’t have data to support the following, but I would bet that homeowners who elect to rent out spare bedrooms in the same house that they themselves live in are, on average, a lot less knowledgeable about things like landlord-tenant law, compared with professional property managers or small landlords who rent out “normal” investment properties that they don’t also live in.

    • DCbyDay

      i had the same question. i couldn’t figure out why a landlord would want their friend to move in unless they were also living in the house, not that it makes any difference legally and it’s still shady AF.

      • HaileUnlikely

        While it doesn’t make any difference from a legal standpoint (well, I don’t think it does, but I think the law is a good bit less clear in the case of an owner renting out rooms in the same house that the owner lives in), I think it certainly makes a big difference from a quality of life standpoint. Legal matters aside, I wouldn’t want to live with a roommate-landlord who clearly doesn’t want me there.

        • textdoc

          “Legal matters aside, I wouldn’t want to live with a roommate-landlord who clearly doesn’t want me there.” Agreed. Having possible bad blood with a landlord you don’t see very often is one thing. But with a landlord you live with? Better to move.
          (For what it’s worth, since there was no mention of the landlord living in the group house, I figured he lived elsewhere.)

  • Anonymous

    I am confused. Is this in a zone that allows for rooming houses, with the landlord renting out individual rooms to individual tenants, or is the landlord renting out the entire house to a group, but somehow having individual legal documents?

  • nasoni

    If the apartment is exempt from the rent control regime, which it very well may be, then the landlord can refuse to renew any leads for any reason (other than discrimination, which doesn’t sound to be what’s happening in your situation).

  • Helper

    If the apartment is exempt from rent control, which it sounds like it might be, then the landlord can refuse to rent to anyone for any reason other than for discriminatory reasons.

    • Anon Spock

      I’d love a link to this info. As far as I’m aware, month to month is automatic and unstoppable unless you’re reclaiming for personal use. They can always refuse a lease renewal, but that’s a bit different than saying I can stop you from going month to month to move in my friend.

    • textdoc

      That might be the case when the landlord is initially picking a tenant, but once the tenant is already in there, I don’t think the landlord can boot him/her unless the tenant is violating the lease or the landlord wants to move back in him/herself.

      • FridayGirl

        The link AJ posted above regarding evictions from the OTA was pretty clear about this: “A tenant may not be evicted just because the initial lease term expires, or because the rental property has been foreclosed upon.”

        • HaileUnlikely

          As our President once said in a tweet at Nordstrom’s or whoever, “Wrong!”

        • iwdc

          I guess I *am* going to spoon feed you this… https://dhcd.dc.gov/service/rent-control

          “The rent control law is the Rental Housing Act of 1985 (DC Law 6-10) as amended (the Act), which is codified at DC Official Code § 42-3501.01 et seq…The Act applies to all rental housing accommodations in the District of Columbia. Certain parts of the Act, such as eviction protections, apply to all District tenants.”

          There is no such thing as an “apartment is exempt from rent control” or a tenant not covered by it’s eviction protections in the District of Columbia.

        • FridayGirl

          Wow, rude.
          +1 to Haile’s brilliant comeback.

  • kwillkat

    Anyone know how much the rent could be increased if the lease expires and it is automatically month to month? And how much notice landlord has to give tenants of the increase?

    • iwdc

      “For most tenants, the most that their rent can increase is the CPI percentage plus 2 percent, but not more than 10 percent.”
      “The housing provider must give a 30-day notice of any increase in rent.”

    • FridayGirl

      From the OTA:
      “If rent control applies, the landlord may not raise the rent: (a) unless the
      owner and manager are properly licensed and registered; (b) unless the unit and common
      areas substantially comply with the housing code; (c) more frequently than once every 12
      months; (d) by more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for an elderly tenant (age 62 or
      over) or tenant with a disability, regardless of income, if registered with the Rent
      Administrator; (e) by more than the CPI + 2% for all other tenants. A rent increase larger
      than (d) or (e) requires government approval of a landlord petition, which tenants may
      If rent control doesn’t apply they can pretty much raise it however much they want.


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