§ 42–3505.10. Tenant screening.
(a) Before requesting any information or fees from a prospective tenant as a part of tenant screening, a housing provider shall first notify the prospective tenant in writing, or by posting in a manner accessible to a prospective tenant:
(1) The amount and purpose of each fee or deposit, whether mandatory or voluntary, that may be charged to a tenant or prospective tenant and whether the fee or deposit is refundable;
(2) The types of information that will be accessed to conduct a tenant screening;
(3) The specific criteria that will result in automatic denial of the application;
(4) Any additional criteria that may result in denial of the application;
(5) If a credit or consumer report is used, the name and contact information of the credit or consumer reporting agency and a statement of the prospective tenant's rights to obtain a free copy of the credit or consumer report in the event of a denial or other adverse action;
(6) The approximate quantity of rental units that will be available for rent over a specified period, by bedroom size and monthly rent, or if such information is not available, the number of rental units that became available for rent each calendar month in the housing provider's prior fiscal year;
(7) The number of days after receipt of a prospective tenant's application that the housing provider will respond with an approval or denial decision;
(8) The prospective tenant's right to dispute any information relied upon by the housing provider that is inaccurately or incorrectly attributed to the prospective tenant or is based upon the housing provider's use of prohibited criteria, and the right to receive a response from the housing provider regarding any information disputed by the prospective tenant;
(9) The prospective tenant's right to a refund for any unused application fee; and
(10) The prospective tenant's right to file a complaint with the Office of Human Rights or pursue civil action via the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Superior Court") if he or she believes the housing provider has violated this section.
(b)(1) A housing provider may require a prospective tenant to pay an application fee. Such an application fee will be no more than $50.
(2) Beginning on January 1, 2024, the application fee specified in paragraph (1) of this subsection may be adjusted annually by the housing provider, or his or her agent, commensurate with an increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(c) If a housing provider fails to conduct a screening of a prospective applicant for any reason, the housing provider shall refund any application fee paid by the prospective tenant within a reasonable time, not to exceed 14 days.
(d) For the purposes of tenant screening, a housing provider shall not make an inquiry about, require the prospective tenant to disclose or reveal, or base an adverse action on:
(1) Whether a previous action to recover possession from the prospective tenant occurred if the action:
(A) Did not result in a judgment for possession in favor of the housing provider; or
(B) Was filed 3 or more years ago.
(2) Any allegation of a breach of lease by the prospective tenant if the alleged breach:
(A) Stemmed from an incident that the prospective tenant demonstrates may constitute a defense to an action for possession under § 42-3505.01(c-1) or a federal law pertaining to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, including records of civil or criminal protection orders sought or obtained by the prospective tenant or of criminal matters in which the prospective tenant is a witness;
(B) Stemmed from an incident in which the prospective tenant was a victim of a crime in the unit subject to the lease;
(C) Is related to the prospective tenant or household member's disability; or
(D) Took place 3 or more years ago.
(e)(1) A housing provider shall not base an adverse action solely on a prospective tenant's credit score or lack thereof, although information within a credit or consumer report directly relevant to fitness as a tenant can be relied upon by a housing provider.
(2) It shall not be considered a violation of this section if a housing provider receives a credit or consumer report containing information that may not be used as the basis of an adverse action pursuant to subsection (d) of this section; provided, that the housing provider did not specifically request or inquire about this information and can demonstrate that he or she did not base an adverse action on such information.
(f) If a housing provider takes an adverse action, he or she shall provide a written notice of the adverse action to the prospective tenant no later than the response date provided to the prospective tenant pursuant to subsection (a)(7) of this section that includes:
(1) The specific grounds for the adverse action;
(2) A copy or summary, free of charge, of any information obtained from a third party that formed a basis for the adverse action;
(3) A statement informing the prospective tenant of his or her right to dispute the accuracy of and permissibility of the housing provider's use of any information upon which the housing provider relied in making his or her adverse action determination; and
(4) A statement informing the prospective tenant of his or her right to file a complaint with the Office of Human Rights if he or she believes a housing provider violated this section.
(g)(1) After receipt of a notice of an adverse action, a prospective tenant may provide to the housing provider any evidence that information relied upon by the housing provider is:
(A) Inaccurate or incorrectly attributed to the prospective tenant; or
(B) Based upon prohibited criteria under subsection (d) of this section.
(2) The housing provider shall provide a written response, which may be by mail, electronic mail, or in person, to the prospective tenant with respect to any information provided under this subsection within 10 days after receipt of the information from the prospective tenant.
(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit a housing provider from considering debts owed to a housing authority, any other criteria established in federal law, or from leasing a housing rental unit to other prospective tenants.
(h)(1) A prospective tenant may file a complaint with the Office of Human Rights if he or she believes that a housing provider violated this section. If the Office of Human Rights determines that there is probable cause to believe that a housing provider has knowingly violated this section, the Office of Human Rights shall certify the complaint to the Commission on Human Rights. The Commission on Human Rights may impose the following penalties, of which half shall be awarded to the complainant and half shall deposited into the General Fund of the District of Columbia:
(A) For a housing provider that owns or leases 1 to 10 rental units, a fine of up to $1,000;
(B) For a housing provider that owns or leases 11 to 19 rental units, a fine of up to $2,500; and
(C) For a housing provider that owns or leases 20 or more rental units, a fine of up to $5,000.
(2) The fines set forth in paragraph (1) of this subsection may be doubled for any provider that:
(A) Violates this section more than twice within a calendar year; or
(B) Fails to implement a corrective action ordered by the Commission on Human Rights within 90 days after the corrective action is ordered.
(3) For any violation that occurs within 6 months after the applicability date of this subsection, the Commission on Human Rights shall issue warnings and orders to correct in lieu of penalties. The Commission on Human Rights may impose penalties as provided in this subsection for violations that occur more than 6 months after the applicability date of this subsection.
(4) The Mayor, pursuant to subchapter I of Chapter 5 of Title 2, may issue rules to implement the provisions of this subsection.
(i)(1) A prospective tenant may bring a civil action in Superior Court against a housing provider who violates this section within one year after the alleged violation; except, that prospective tenant may not pursue a civil action against a housing provider if he or she has filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights pursuant to subsection (h) of this section.
(2) When a prospective tenant prevails in a civil action brought pursuant to this subsection, he or she shall be entitled to the following relief:
(A) Reasonable attorney's fees and costs;
(B) Incidental damages; and
(C) Equitable relief as may be appropriate.
(j) For the purposes of this section, the term:
(1) "Adverse action" means:
(A) Denial of a prospective tenant's rental application; or
(B) Approval of a prospective tenant's rental application, subject to terms or conditions different and less-favorable to the prospective tenant than those included in any written notice, statement, or advertisement for the rental unit, including written communication sent directly from the housing provider to a prospective tenant.
(2) "Tenant screening" means any process used by a housing provider to evaluate the fitness of a prospective tenant.