In DC Landlord Tenant Court, if a party requests a protective order the Court will hold what is known as a Bell Hearing to establish an amount that the tenant is required to pay into the Court registry while the case is pending. 

In the event the tenant fails to pay the Court ordered amount, the landlord can file a motion for sanctions.  A tenant usually has until the date of the hearing on the motion for sanctions to pay the amount due into the Court registry. 

-If the tenant has not paid the amount due into the Court registry by the time the motion for sanctions is heard, the Court can strike the tenant’s pleadings in the case and consider the tenant to be in default or depending on the circumstances the Court can allow the tenant additional time to pay the amount due. 

-If the Court finds that the tenant is in default due to the tenant’s failure to pay the protective order amount which is due, the case will proceed as if the tenant never appeared in the case and the Court may hear evidence the same day as to damages or set an ex parte proof hearing within a couple of weeks to determine the amount of damages the landlord is entitled to in the case.

At the ex parte proof hearing, evidence is presented by the landlord as to the amount of past due rent owed by the tenant and any property damage.  The landlord must bring proof of his damages such as a copy of the lease and a rental ledger or accounting which shows the rental payment history of the tenant.  Even if the tenant is in default, the tenant is entitled to notice of the hearing and the opportunity to challenge the evidence put on by the landlord.  The only issue before the Court at the ex parte proof hearing is damages, so issues related to the condition of the property are no longer relevant to the case.  If the tenant was served personally with the Complaint, the landlord may be able to obtain a money judgment, in addition to a judgment for possession, for the past due rent or property damage.

Are you involved in a DC residential landlord tenant dispute and have questions about the process? If so, you can contact the Thomas Law Office and we would be happy to discuss your specific situation with you.

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