Having a tenant abandon a rental unit is inconvenient for the landlord. The landlord not only has to find a new tenant but may also have to deal with personal property left behind. The District of Columbia has straightforward laws regarding abandonment, and they are written to simplify things for the landlord.

The landlord has options

When a tenant abandons a rental unit in D.C. the rental agreement remains in effect and the tenant is liable for paying rent and other costs throughout the remainder of the agreement term. The landlord has three options available to them if the tenant wrongfully abandons the premises:

  1. Landlord can accept abandonment and thereby terminate the agreement.
  2. Landlord can, without acquiescing in abandonment, reenter and relet and hold tenant for any deficiency in rent.
  3. Landlord can refuse to reenter, allow the premises to remain vacant, and hold tenant responsible for all amounts due under this agreement.

Landlord’s Lien

D.C. Code § 42-3213 gives the landlord the right to take a lien upon the tenant’s personal property in the premises, subject to execution for debt, beginning on the date the rental agreement takes effect and continuing until three months after termination of the tenancy. This also means that if the tenant leaves behind any personal property after move-out, abandonment, or eviction the property is deemed to be abandoned, and the landlord may dispose of the property at tenant’s expense without liability to tenant or any other person.