On Jan. 22, 2019, the Council of the District of Columbia met and unanimously voted to support emergency legislation to prevent landlords from moving forward with the eviction of federal workers affected by the government shutdown. Given that the federal government passed legislation guaranteeing back-pay to furloughed federal workers, most tenants should be able to bring their accounts current. The original draft of the bill provided for an immediate stop of all eviction proceedings for those affected tenants, but the enacted legislation only requires a landlord to temporarily stay eviction measures upon receipt of proof of furlough. This new bill also protects District of Columbia Court employees as well as employees of contractors of the federal government who are affected by the shutdown. Access the full text of the Federal Worker Housing Relief Emergency Act of 2019 here.
While numerous landlords have already implemented policies to freeze eviction actions against furloughed workers and offer payment plans as an alternative, the bill clarifies when landlords may resume eviction proceedings. The legislation, therefore, is still relevant to all landlords as they will want to make sure that their payment plans are as generous as the law requires. The bill provides for a stay of eviction until 30 days after the enactment of a federal appropriations bill to fund federal government workers for a period of up to a maximum of 90 days. The bill also prevents landlords from charging late fees to federal workers during the time period that workers did not receive checks because of the shutdown.
If action has already been initiated against affected tenants, those eviction proceedings should be stayed. We also recommend that landlords do not initiate new actions against tenants who have provided proof that they are furloughed. While the act does not take effect until approval from Mayor Muriel Bowser (with universal support currently, a veto would be easily overridden) and the expiration of the 30-day period of congressional review, the District of Columbia Superior Court likely will treat these conditions as a formality and implement the legislation now. Judges likely will not condone attempts by landlords to push through evictions against furloughed tenants prior to the time that the act formally takes effect.
If you have any questions regarding if and when a tenant may be sued for non-payment of rent or removal of late fees charged to affected tenants, please contact Shulman Rogers’ Landlord-Tenant Group.
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