The Catholic University of America


Legal Issues

The choice to live off-campus does not nullify a student's responsibility to abide by the expectations of the community of which they are a member. While more information on CUA's expectations of off-campus students can be found here, this page will provide information on legal issues that students and parents should be aware of when living off-campus.

Verify Your Landlord

You should only rent from a licensed landlord. Although landlords listing through our rental site are licensed, you should not assume that rental properties listed elsewhere are legally licensed. DC law requires property owners obtain a Basic Business License (BBL) from the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) in order to legally rent their property. A condition of obtaining the BBL is the property's satisfactory inspection by the DCRA for basic life safety requirements, such as egress, electrical systems, smoke detectors, etc.

DCRA has provided more information regarding property inspection guidelines for tenants and landlords.

To check if a property has a current BBL:

  1. Go to the DC Property Information Verification System website
  2. Enter the rental property's address
  3. Select the Find button
  4. Go to the bottom of the left hand menu
  5. Select the tab labeled BBL 


Landlord & Tenant Relations

The relationship between a landlord and a tenant has an enormous impact on the quality of the residential experience that tenants will enjoy. For this reason, it is extremely important that students looking to move off-campus or those already residing off-campus have a clear understanding of their and their landlord's legal rights and responsibilities vis-a-vis one another. The following resources have been gathered to assist in doing so:


Legal Liability

Each student who signs a lease can be held responsible for the full rent amount of the lease or for any damage caused to the rental unit. The landlord is not legally obligated to go after the student who failed to pay rent or who caused the damage, but can go after any of the signatories to the lease.

Security Deposits

Most DC landlords require one month's rent up front, in what is known as a "security deposit." This deposit is held in trust by the landlord and acts as a hedge against damage to the rental unit or violation of the rental contract. DC law requires the landlord to return the entire security deposit to the student (plus interest earned if the deposit was held for longer than 12 months), unless there is extensive damage. The deposit must be returned to the student within 45 days or the landlord must notify the student of which damages the security deposit will be applied toward.