District of Columbia Passes Emergency Coronavirus Bill that Includes Rent-Hike Freeze and Mortgage and Rent Forbearance

The Washington, DC City Council passed on April 7 an expansive piece of legislation intended to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Housing justice advocates were able to secure a rent-hike freeze as well as mortgage and rent forbearance provisions lasting throughout the state of emergency declared by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The rent hike freeze provision prohibits rent raises in all rental properties and not just rent-controlled properties. The freeze will allow tenants who enter the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) process—D.C.’s mechanism for allowing tenants first right of first refusal if their landlord decides to sell a property—more security to stay in their homes as the rent will not increase during the emergency.

The mortgage and rent forbearance provisions allow mortgage holders to decrease their mortgage payments for at least 90 days without late fees and requires landlords that receive this forbearance to offer decreased rent payments to their renters. Mortgage holders and renters must demonstrate they have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic related to their ability to pay their mortgage or rent. Mortgage holders must pay back whatever amount of their mortgage has not been paid during the forbearance and renters may be required to do the same at the discretion of the landlord.

NLIHC’s DC state partner, the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED), helped lead the advocacy effort and are now working on the law’s implementation.

“The Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development collaborated with members and allied organizations to advocate successfully for two provisions in the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which was passed by the District of Columbia Council on April 7. CNHED continues to work with its members and allies and District agencies to advocate for clarifications to the mortgage and rent deferral provisions to facilitate implementation of this portion of the emergency legislation.”

NLIHC supports CNHED’s efforts to protect renters in DC and looks forward to more protections and assistance in the weeks to come to provide relief to the lowest-income renters in the city and nationwide.

An article in the Washington Post provides additional information: https://wapo.st/3aa26oX