On Tuesday, May 19, 2020, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously approved the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which awaits Mayor Bowser’s signature.
The Act consolidates and amends the four prior COVID-19 related emergency acts, including several substantial changes to the Rental Housing Act and other existing laws with respect to residential and commercial landlord and tenant relationships related to the current public health emergency. The Act includes (among other things) increased consumer protections (e.g., debt collection, price gouging and stockpiling, credit reports, utilities shutoffs and payment plans) and housing and tenant protections (e.g., mortgage relief, requirements for tenant payment plans for eligible residential and commercial retail tenants, prohibitions on rent increases for residential tenancies, retail properties and certain commercial properties, moratorium on evictions and filing of new landlord and tenant cases, and residential cleaning requirements).
The Act has many complicated components and the Council is expected to pass further amendments. GDL urges our clients to contact us with respect to any questions or concerns regarding the Act or its requirements.
Please note the following regarding Sections of the Act that may be of particular interest to GDL clients:
Section 303 (Debt Collection): Provides for increased protections for consumer debtors during the public health emergency plus 60 days after its expiration or rescission, including a prohibition on filing or threatening to file new collection lawsuits and certain communications with debtors.
Section 401 (Mortgage Relief): Mandates development of a mortgage deferral program by lenders making or holding residential or commercial mortgages in the District with specified minimum conditions. There is a question as to the enforceability of this section as to nationally and other state chartered banks, as such banks are not subject to regulation by the District’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, but rather fall under the jurisdiction of the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Section 402 (Tenant Payment Plans): Mandates development of a payment plan for “eligible tenants” (residential and commercial retail tenants who meet specific criteria) with respect to rent which accrues during the “covered period” – commencing with the Mayor’s declaration of a public health emergency on March 11, 2020, and ending one year after expiration or rescission of the public health emergency. The payment plan must: (i) permit an eligible tenant to enter into a payment plan for gross rent that comes due during the covered time and prior to cessation of the tenancy; (ii) waive any fee or penalty arising out of entering into a payment plan; (iii) no report to a credit bureau as delinquent any rent subject to the payment plan; (iv) notify all tenants of the availability, terms and application process for the program; (v) permit a tenant with a payment plan to prepay any amounts stated in the payment plan; (vi) make payments in equal monthly installments during the term of the payment plan; (vii) not require a tenant to provide a lump sum payment in excess of the amount stated in the payment plan; (viii) provide a minimum payment plan term of 12 months (unless a shorter term is requested by the tenant); and (ix) state the agreement to the terms of the payment plan in writing signed by landlord and tenant.
Section 403 (Residential Cleaning): Common areas of a housing accommodation, including frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doors, railings, exterior of mailboxes), must be cleaned on a regular basis.
Section 404 (Eviction Prohibition): No new cases may be filed in Landlord & Tenant Court during the time the Mayor has declared public health emergency and for 60 days after its expiration or rescission and no evictions may be conducted during the public health emergency.
Section 405 (Residential Tenant Protections): Provides for tolling of certain deadlines under the Rental Housing Conversion and Sale Act of 1980 (DC Code §42-3401.01 et seq.); computation of quorum for the Rental Housing Commission operations during the public health emergency; pro rata refund of fees for any amenities paid for in addition to the monthly rent should the housing provider temporarily stop providing the amenity during the public health emergency (no refund is required for services/facilities included in the monthly rent; prohibition on late fees during any month in which there is a declared public health emergency; tolling of notices of intention to vacate provided by tenants; prohibition on rent increases pursuant to the Rental Housing Act of 1985 (DC Code §42—3505.01 et seq.).
Section 406 (Rent Increase Prohibition): Prohibition on rent increases during the declared public health emergency plus 30 days after its expiration or rescission for residential tenants (this captures residential properties exempt from rent control or not subject to the coverage of the Rental Housing Act) and commercial retail property or a commercial property that is less than 6,500 square feet in size.
Section 408 (Foreclosure Moratorium): Prohibition on initiating or conducting a residential foreclosures during the public health emergency plus 60 days after its expiration or rescission.