Skip to main content

We want to rent out our basement. It is a small studio with its own kitchen and bath. Do we need a licence of some kind?

Washington, DC |
Attorney answers 3


Yes, you need a number of things--registering with DCRA, getting an exemption for small landlords, getting a bus. license, registering with the DC inc. tax office. There are companies that will do this for you for about $750 to give you some idea of the time involved. You may even need an inspection of the unit--I can't remember if that is waived for 1 unit rentals.
Good luck, but most important, choose your tenant carefully because you can pay thousands of $ to get a bad tenant out (credit check, prior LL contact, suffic. income, etc.). Also, be SURE you have a good DC lease form (national universal forms don't do it).
Lynn Johnson, Esq.


My colleague's answer is spot-on. Let me add that being a landlord in DC is not for the feint of heart. The law does not favor you. It is small tenancy landlords that pay me a lot of money each year, and I appreciate the business. Include that in your rental computation, but don't collect impermissible security deposits or use lease clauses that have been found illegal. Also, a basement without adequate street-level access suitable for fire escape may have serious problems getting a license.

Good luck!

Reading an answer on the Internet does not create an attorney-client relationship. You are represented by me when we have both signed a retainer agreement (on paper or electronically) and some money has changed hands. Usually, you will have been asked specific questions about your situation and all potential conflicts of interest will have been resolved. Until then, you have no more right to rely on this answer than if you read it in a novel.


Sternberg and Johnson said it all.

The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer