DC Requires Rental Plans During COVID Crisis

Bill Also Creates Election, Contract Tracer Provisions

DC Council passed their third COVID-19 emergency legislation package during a May 5 virtual meeting. Screenshot: DC Granicus

Landlords who have four or more units now must create rental-payment programs for residential and commercial tenants who can’t pay due to the COVID-19 crisis. Evictions are also forbidden during the public health emergency and for 60 days after it ends.

The provisions were part of emergency COVID-19 legislation passed by DC Council May 5.

Tenants can negotiate rent repayment for amounts due during the period of the public health emergency and for up to a year after. The terms of the agreement are left to the parties involved, but the landlord needs to let all tenants know that it is a possibility for them.

A previous DC Council bill forbade increases to rent and fees for unpaid rent.

Foreclosures were forbidden by a separate bill introduced by Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1-D). The prohibition follows provisions in the April 7 emergency bill that called for mortgage providers to offer 90-day payment deferrals to affected homeowners. Evictions were already banned by that bill; Tuesday’s bill extends the ban for 60 days after the end of the public health emergency.

Credit agencies will have to indicate if a consumer was hit by COVID-19 by inserting a ‘COVID-19 alert’ in credit reports for those that demonstrate evidence of financial hardship due to the pandemic. Users of the reports are directed not to consider information marked by that alert.

Other Provisions

The bill limits charges to restaurants by third-party services such as UberEats and DoorDash to 15 percent of the bill before taxes. Similar legislation has been passed in San Francisco and Seattle.

Provisions were included to reduce and modify the petition requirements for potential candidates in the November 3 General election. Candidates for At-Large Councilmember will require the signatures of 250 voters, down from 3,000; for Ward Councilmembers, 150 voters living in their ward; State Board of Education, 150 voters, and Ward representatives, 50 voters; and signatures required for candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) from 25 to 10 residents of their Single Member District.

The bill contains provisions to improve reporting of positive Coronavirus cases, requiring long-term facilities to report cases and deaths among both employees and residents to the Department of Health. It also requires the Mayor to provide a weekly report on testing in the DC Jail, the efforts to improve conditions there.

As the District prepares to hire an initial cohort of 200 contract tracing personnel, the bill requires that at least 50 percent of the employees be District residents. Hiring of Contract Trace Force personnel, including both part-time and full-time workers, has already begun. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that the force may have up to 900 contact tracers.

A provision that would have compelled business insurers to pay business interruption claims filed because they were legally forced to close due to the pandemic was pulled from the emergency legislation passed by DC Council April 5 due to a lack of support.

The bill is the third piece of legislation dealing with fallout from the Coronavirus outbreak. Previous bills were passed March 17 and April 7.

You can see the circulated version of the legislation on Chairman Mendelson’s website.