Legally, you can only rent your property after a business license and rent control registration/exemption are issued.
If you purchased the property, and there are tenants already living in the property, D.C. will give you 30 days to comply with the above law. Even though you cannot begin the process until you officially own the property, we recommend that you start the licensing process as soon as possible, after you settle. We say “as soon as possible” because it can take up to 30 days to complete the process.
Just so you know, if you become aware of the license requirement after you have rented the property, don’t worry about it – D.C. believes in voluntary compliance. Voluntary compliance means as long as D.C. hasn’t issued you a formal notice of operating illegally, you will be allowed to become licensed without incurring a penalty.
Note: Even though D.C. is forgiving about non-compliance, there might be possible blowback from pre-license incidents that resurface, which could bite you in the butt. So if this situation applies to you, we advise you to speak with an attorney about any past legal exposure you might have from a landlord-tenant relationship perspective.