DC Council passes emergency relief bill; small landlords required to offer rent plans

A man crosses a quiet street in Washington, Monday, April 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The D.C. Council passed an emergency coronavirus relief bill Tuesday that is aimed at helping residents and businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis as the District’s economy has slammed to a halt.

Included in the bill is an amendment pushed by Council members Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) and Charles Allen (Ward 6) that requires landlords with five or fewer units to establish alternative options with tenants facing hardships during the pandemic.

Previously, smaller landlords were exempt.

Mendelson argued against the amendment, saying it was unclear what kind of financial harm could come to small landlords.

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“We do know what the impact is on tenants. And that is that if we take some time to figure this out and be confident that we can do this, it will not have an adverse effect on renters. renters are protected from eviction right now,” he said.

“Bottom line, there is not a harm to the tenants of waiting three weeks, but there may be a harm to the small landlords. Let’s be a little bit more deliberative about this.”

Nadeau pushed back: “If you’re a landlord whose tenant is unable to pay one way or another, setting up a payment plan is a lot better than getting no rent at all. And when we’re talking about who we’re trying to protect here, who’s living in single-family homes, who’s living in smaller buildings, these are families.”

Independent Council member at-large Elissa Silverman also backed the amendment.

“We are all in an anxious point in time,” she said. “But if you are a restaurant worker, hotel workers lost their job lives in a small building can either rent and add then they don’t know what to do.”

“Let’s err on the side of making sure our tenants feel protected, protected and … if there are unintended consequences here, and we can come back and fix them.”

The amendment passed 10-2, with only Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ken McDuffie (Ward 5) voting “no.” It will remain in effect for the duration of D.C.’s state of emergency and for one year after.

Mendelson called Tuesday’s bill a “consolidation” of previous legislation during a Monday news conference.

Another D.C. Council meeting is scheduled for June 9.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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