Problems with short-term rentals prompt DC to question landlords

WASHINGTON — D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s office sent letters to 19 building owners and managers of 33 residential apartment buildings in the District requesting answers about short-term rentals being offered alongside long-term leases.

The A.G.’s office says it has received complaints from tenants about safety concerns and frequent disruption from noisy and rowdy short-term guests. It also says it has heard that some landlords misled long-term residents about short-term rentals.

It is investigating whether these landlords and building managers are in violation of the District’s consumer protection and rent control laws.

The District’s Office of Attorney General recently recovered $100,000 in penalties from a Columbia Heights landlord for allegedly illegally converting a rent-controlled apartment building into a short-term rental hotel.

“Under the law, landlords are required to tell tenants if there are short-term rentals in their buildings,” said Racine in a statement.

“Today’s letters put building owners and managers on notice that short-term rentals must comply with the District’s consumer protection and rent control laws,” he said.

Under D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, the OAG can take action against any business that sells a good or service to a consumer in a misleading or deceptive manner. The District’s Rental Housing Act also prohibits the conversion of apartments into any type of temporary or transient accommodation.

The Attorney General’s office did not identify the buildings that have been sent the letter inquiring about short-term rentals.

The letters were sent to building owners and managers, not to individual owners or renters who rent out their properties through third-party sites, such as Airbnb or VRBO.

The D.C. OAG has posted a sample of the letters it has sent online. It asks owners and mangers to voluntarily provide information, including tenant disclosures about short-term rentals, how many units are being rented short-term, and terms of any short-term rental business.


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