If you’re on the hunt for a new home, you’re likely looking for the most affordable apartments for rent in Washington D.C., right? Rent control is a pretty nice setup in some of America’s major metros. And Washington D.C. renters are among the lucky ones who can benefit from it.

A lot of the usual rent control laws apply in Washington D.C. as they do in cities like San Francisco and New York City. Whether you’re a new or veteran renter, here’s what you should know. Plus, some tips and a free online tool for finding rent-controlled apartments in Washington D.C.

What is Rent Control?

Rent control is a legal system administered by the government to limit the amount that landlords can charge for in rent and lease. This also limits how much landlords can raise rent for tenants.

The state rent in Washington D.C.

Finding apartments for rent in Washington D.C. isn’t complicated, as long as budget isn’t a factor. With a $1,500 budget, one can find an empty rental unit and the price increases the more amenities you need.

And while that might sound frustratingly similar to a lot of major rental markets plagued with high rent prices, the City has been doing its part to make affordable housing more available. Introducing rent control was one of the first steps.

Rent Control in Washington D.C.

Rent control is a hot-button issue in cities across the United States, and Washington D.C. is no exception. With skyrocketing housing costs and a dwindling supply of affordable units, many residents are finding it difficult to keep up with the rising rents.

Source: Unsplash

Rent-controlled apartments in Washington D.C. provide a glimmer of hope for those struggling to find affordable housing. But what does it entail?

What buildings qualify for rent control?

A majority of rental units in D.C. fall under rent control, yet a surprising number of residents aren’t aware of how pervasive rent control laws are. All rental complexes with four or more units fall under rent control, thanks to this law, with a few notable exceptions. A dwelling is exempt from rent control if:

  1. It was built after 1975.
  2. The unit has been continuously vacant since January 1, 1985.
  3. The dwelling is owned by a person not owning more than four rentals.
  4. It’s subsidized by the Government or the District.
  5. The building is under an improvement plan receiving rehabilitation assistance through the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Another exemption is if a rental unit isn’t registered with the Rental Accommocations Division (RAD), it’s automatically under rent control even if it counts under these exemptions.

How much rent in Washington D.C. increases yearly?

Basically, if you find apartments for rent in Washington D.C. and they’re in buildings with more than four rental units, and they aren’t new, they’re very likely rent-controlled.

All rent increases are based on a yearly adjusted Consumer Price Index (CPI-W), which factors in workers’ wages. This allows the population to keep up with inflation. Meaning, all rent-controlled units increase in rent each year. But by marginally less than newer rentals and other non-rent-controlled units. Landlords can’t increase rent more than 10 percent each year.

But for most tenants, the average yearly increase is the CPI plus another 2 percent. For disabled or elderly tenants, it’s even lower, with a maximum increase of 5 percent per 12 months.

Exceptions to the rule

In the case that a unit becomes vacant, the landlord can raise the rent price more than once in the same year. The “vacancy increase” rule allows the landlord to:

  1. Increase rent by 10 percent more than was charged to the former tenant; Or,
  2. Rent it for the price of a comparable rental unit, but the rent hike can’t be more than 30 percent.

There’s also a clause in the Rental Housing Act of 1985 that allows landlords/property owners to claim hardship. Essentially, if they find themselves unable to make a 12 percent rate of return on the property (with 12-15 months of paper proof of the fact), they can raise the rent to make that 12 percent.

Additionally, a property owner can petition to raise the rent to make improvements to the building required by local law. That being said, tenants should stay in the know about whether their landlord is following the legal processes to raise rent. And if you live in a home that falls under rent control but hasn’t been registered, you should file a complaint.

How to Find Rent-Controlled Apartments in Washington D.C.

Source: GetArchive

Finding affordable housing in a bustling city like Washington D.C. can often feel like an impossible task. However, there is a solution that can make living in the nation’s capital a little more affordable: check out these three ways on finding rent-controlled apartments in Washington D.C..

1. By using an apartment finder online

The best way to find rent-controlled apartments in Washington D.C. is by using an online tool, like Roomi. The app can help you find both rooms/spaces and roommates with just a few clicks. Moreso, it’s free!

Source: Roomi

All you have to do is input the location or area you’re planning to move in to and Roomi will show you a list of affordable apartments available for rent. You can then filter your search by duration (flexible, fixed, and 12 months), layout, type of property, number of bedrooms, and popular amenities. Aside from these, there are options to show only ID-verified listings and to input an age range, preferred gender, and the amount of monthly rent.

Roomi also protects its users with its background checks, ID verification, and in-app messaging features.

2. With the Section 8 voucher program

When finding rent-controlled apartments in Washington D.C., the issues lie in vacancy rates pricing, and availability in general. If you’re moving to D.C. with little in the bank, you might apply for Section 8, a voucher program for low-income, elderly, or disabled renters.

Due to the increase of rents in the city, with the Section 8 voucher, you’ll most likely have better luck with smaller units. It’s less common to find more than a three-bedroom section 8 house in Washington, D.C..

3. Scoping out the rent-controlled buildings

If you don’t qualify for Section 8, there are still plenty of techniques to finding affordable apartments in D.C. The first step is to do some research before you hit the streets looking. Use D.C.’s affordable housing locator, and see what comes up. Research the neighborhoods, and use a realtor to help with the legwork.

Here’s a tip: Always ask your landlord about the details of the place you want to rent. Because the landlord will have to disclose that information, legally speaking.

Washington D.C. and Its Rent-Controlled Apartments: The Verdict

With low vacancy rates, it may be difficult to secure a rent-controlled apartment from scratch. But you can run into some luck by finding a housemate who already did the dirty work of locking one down and has an open room to fill. Even if it doesn’t have every amenity on your list, locking down an affordable apartment offers you a lot to gain.

Source: Roomi

For an easier and smoother apartment searching journey, use Roomi. It’s the best roommate and apartment finder with a user-friendly layout, preferences-based filters, and affordable rental units. The app also makes sure its users are safe with extensive background checks, rigorous ID verifications, and secure in-app messaging features.

So, if you’re looking for a sign to start searching for an apartment in Washington D.C., without worrying too much about the price and quality, this is it. Sign up today and browse through rent-controlled apartments in Roomi.

Find Affordable Rent-Controlled Apartments in Washington D.C. with Roomi.