Lease Terminations

Lease Terminations

Are you currently leasing a residential property in the District of Columbia and looking to end your lease prematurely? If that's the case, here is a collection of relevant laws and legal precedents to consider:




1. D.C. Code 42-3505.52: A landlord is obligated to take reasonable steps to minimize damages when a tenant breaches the lease.

2. Fair Housing Act, 42 USC § 3601 et seq., and D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code 2-1401 et seq.: A landlord may be obligated, under certain circumstances, to allow the termination of a lease as a reasonable accommodation for a tenant with a disability.

3. D.C. Code 42-3505.07: A lease can be terminated if the tenant is a victim of an intrafamily offense.

4. 50 USC § 3955: A lease can be terminated when necessary if the tenant is on active duty military service.

5. D.C. Code 42-3201: In most cases, a tenant is not required to provide notice of their intent to terminate a lease for a specific term at the end of the lease term. However, please be cautious as a lease provision may override this statute.

6. D.C. Code 42-3505.53: Pertains to lease provisions that require tenants to give notice of their intent to vacate upon the expiration of an initial lease term.

7. D.C. Code 42-3505.54: Concerns lease provisions that require tenants to give notice of their intent to vacate after the expiration of the signed lease term, renewal, or extension term.

8. D.C. Code 47-2828(a): Requires owners of residential buildings offering apartments or rooms for rent to obtain a license.


14 DCMR 302 (Lease Nullification for Unsafe or Unsanitary Premises): A lease agreement shall be considered null and void if, at the commencement of the tenancy or during its duration, the property is found to be unsafe or unsanitary, and the landlord fails to undertake the necessary repairs.

14 DCMR 800 (Illustrative Instances of “Unsanitary Conditions”): 14 DCMR 800 provides illustrative examples of conditions that may be deemed as “unsanitary matters.”

14 DCMR 200 (Mandatory Business License for Housing Operations): No individual or entity is permitted to conduct a housing business within the District of Columbia without first obtaining a basic business license for the specific premises from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Sklar v. Hightower, 342 A.2d 57, 59 (D.C. 1975) established that when a landlord orally informs a tenant of the need to vacate within less than thirty days due to a refusal to accept a rent increase, and the tenant orally accepts this notice, the landlord effectively waives the tenant’s requirement to provide a thirty-day written notice of intention to vacate.

Hughes v. Westchester Dev. Corp., 77 F.2d 550, 551 (D.C. 1935) clarified the concept of constructive eviction, stating that for it to occur, the landlord must undertake or be responsible for an action of a permanent nature that is intended to and does, in fact, deprive the tenant of the enjoyment of the leased premises or a portion thereof.


District Cablevision v. Bassin, 828 A.2d 714 (D.C. 2003) emphasized that a liquidated damages clause in a lease becomes unenforceable if it is excessively punitive, rather than a reasonable estimate of the damages the landlord could anticipate at the time of the contract’s formation.

Keuroglian v. Wilkins, 88 A.2d 581, 581–82 (D.C. 1952) established that when parties enter into a lease agreement with a specified term, no additional notice to quit is required upon the term’s expiration because the parties have predetermined when possession will terminate.