There is a theory among legislators that "if nobody is satisfied with your bill, it will make good law." If that is so, the new D.C. Rent Control Law, which is expected to take effect Wednesday, will be the best ever enacted in the history of the City Council.
Under the home rule legislation, there is a 30-day layover period in Congress before any Council measure goes into effect-but the period is measured not on the calendar but when Congress is in session.
The origin of rent control for the Distric goes back to 1973, when Del. Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.) introduced a bill in Congress that would grant the City Council authority to regulate rents. This measure passed and in April 1974 the Council passed Regulation 74-8, which imposed a temporary freeze on rents and allowed the Council to develop comprehensive rent control legislation.
The first, comprehensive rent control legislation in the city-over which stormy and bitter battles developed-was modified and extended for three years last December.
Generally speaking, the act is not applicable at all where the housing accommodation is a hotel, motel, or other structure used primarily for transient occupancy. In order to meet the test of "transient occupancy," 60 percent of the rooms devoted to libing quarters for tenants or guests must be used on a transient basis, and the landlord must be subject to-and pay-a retail gross sales tax to the D.C. government.
Even if your housing accomodation does not all into the exempt "transient occupancy" category, the emptions. These include:
1. Any rental unit in any federally or District owned housing accomodation.
2. Any rental unit in a housing accommodation where the original certificate of occupancy was issued after February 2, 1973. It must be pointed out, however, that this exemption only applies to the initial leasing period or for the first year of tenancy, which ever is shorter.
3. Any rental unit in a newly constructed housing accommodation where the building permit was issued after January 1, 1976. There is one catch to his, however, in that if the newly constructed housing accommodation required the demolition of existing housing, the exemption applies only if the new construction added rental units to the city's housing availability.
4. Rental units where the landlord is more than four units. This is the most controversial and complex exemption. The new law attempts to clarify the prior confusion in this area, and specifically exempts any rental unit in any housing accommodation of four or fewer units (whether within the same building or not), provided that the housing accomodation is owned by not more than four persons, none of these persons have an interest (either indirectly or directly) in any other rental unit in the District of Columbia, and the owner of the exempt rental unit files a claim of exemption with the city's rent administrator.
5. Any housing accomodation that has been continuously vacant and not subject to a rental agreement for a period of at least six months, provided that January 1, 1977, falls within this six-month period. It must be pointed out that the landlord who decides to re-rent this rental unit must be satisfied that the unit is in substantial compliance with the housing regulations when the unit is put back on the market.
Next week: Rent Control and Authorized Rental Increases.