Is my Basement Unit Rental Legal? Vol. 7


“Dear PoPville,

Historically, of course, a large percentage of English basement rental units were not technically legal, because the landlord did not have a Certificate of Occupancy for two units (unsurprising, given how onerous that process seems to be). My question is whether the Accessory Apartment Zoning rule which was passed last fall obviates that requirement, as long as your basement unit meets all the requirements of that rule.

This website certainly seems to suggest that to be the case, particularly when it notes that “Prior to renting an accessory apartment in any zone, the property owner shall obtain a Residential Rental Business License from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the property shall be inspected for relevant housing code compliance.” To me, the omission of any CoO requirement is significant.”

7 Comment

  • You need a CoO before you can get your Residential Rental Business License from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

    • Exactly…. a copy is available to you in the Tax&Revenue bldg across from DCRA. THAN you take that into Anacostia to get your License…I do not believe you can get the licsense initially by mail…

  • I think an important distinction here is one of the two units has to be owner occupied. So, if the owner is renting out both the main floors and the basement as two separate units, this rule won’t apply. If the owner lives upstairs, then the zoning rule could apply.

  • DCRA always gets you. Yes, you’re going to need to get the CoO.

  • A CofO is to ensure that the unit satisfies the building codes, very different requirements than those in zoning.

  • I’m curious about this as well – we built out our basement rental unit according to all the codes for a separate unit (fire proofing, electrical, plumbing, etc. all inspected.) We were totally burnt out after construction and never completed the process of getting the CofO. We do pay taxes on the rental income, including a $250 business license fee (or something like that?) to DC with our tax returns. Would I qualify as a legal renter under this new rule?

    • Nope. You need a CoO to get a business license (if you fail the CoO inspection twice then they cancel your business license) and then you take both the CoO and the business license to register your rental with the rental accommodation division, RAD in SE.

      Are you paying the $250 business license fee as part of your taxes without obtaining a business license?