The District of Columbia's new law doubling the tenant eviction-notice time to six months survived its first court test last week, the city's Rental Accommodations Office (RAO) has reported.
Superior Court Judge Gladys Kessler refused to order the eviction of 20 tenants who had been given an apparently valid three-month notice to move out of their apartments under an old city law that was in effect before March 16.
On that date, a new rent control law went into effect, followed by another law doubling the notice time to six months for people being evicted from units that are being taken off the rental market.
While Judge Kessler's action is not binding on the other judges of Superior Court, it could set a precedent in the interpretation of the new law.
At issue was the question of whether the new law would apply only to families who are told to move after the new law went into effect, or whether - as the law's sponsors sought - it would automactically add three months to the notice time for people already told to move.
The court's action adopted the latter view.
The City Council, warned by Mayor Walter E. Washington that the new eviction law was ambiguous, approved emergency legislation Tuesday making clear that an additional three months must be given those evicted.
Here, according to RAO officials, is what happened in court last week:
The lawyer for three landlords who own the 20 apartment units at 1806, 1810, 1814, 1818 and 1822 C St. SE asked Superior Court to issue an order to evict the tenants on the grounds that the three months of notice under the old law had been complied with.
Simon Banks, a hearing examiner for RAO, challenged that position with an administrative order asserting that the new law added three months to the eviction notice time. Banks' order was presented to the judge, who then refused to sign the immediate-eviction order.
In a related matter, RAO reported that rents were increased Monday for 39,890 tenants of rental units in the city under the newly extended rent control law.