HARRY GURAL VS. EQUITY RESIDENTIAL

Material obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests — CLICK HERE
See the bottom of the page for evidence and exhibits.


CASE HISTORY

April 1, 2015
Harry Gural (Tenant) pays Equity Residential (Housing Provider) $1,830 on a recurring basis as a month-to-month tenant for the right to occupy apartment S-707 at 3003 Van Ness.

January 15, 2016
Housing Provider sends Tenant notice that his current rent actually is $2,118 and that his rent will increase to $2,192 on April 1, 2016. This constitutes at $362 per month increase, almost 20 percent more than Gural paid the previous year. This is more than five times the maximum legal increase in a rent stabilized building, which for that year was 3.5 percent.

March 18, 2016
Tenant meets with Property Manager Avis Duvall to negotiate a new monthly rent. They agree on a new monthly payment of $1,895, an amount equivalent to the maximum legal percent increase, 3.5%, which amounts $65. However, Duvall states that she can only offer that amount if the Tenant signs a lease falsely stating that the rent is $2,192. Tenant refuses to sign a lease because it is his right by law to live as a month-to-month tenant. He also refuses Duvalls demand to sign a lease listing a higher amount than the rent he would actually pay.

March 25, 2016
Tenant issues a check to Housing Provider for $1,895 — the maximum legal rent increase — plus $100 for parking. This also is consistent with advertised market rates for similar apartments in the building. However, Equity Residential demands $2,192 if the Tenant refuses to sign a new lease.

April 25, 2016
Smith Property Holdings, a subsidiary of Equity Residential Corporation, files suit against Harry Gural in the Landlord and Tenant Branch of the DC Superior Court, claiming that the Tenant had not paid the rent in full.

May 12, 2016
Tenant files a Tenant Petition (TP 30,818) in the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), claiming that Equity has demanded a rent increase that exceeds the percent allowable under the DC rental housing code.

May 19, 2019
The parties appear before Judge John Campbell in Landlord and Tenant Court. Campbell issues a Drayton Stay, delaying a decision on the case until a decision is made in the Office of Administrative hearings. Judge Campell issues a Protective Order requiring Tenant to pay into escrow the difference between the rent he is willing to pay and the rent the Housing Provider says it is owed, $297 per month. This is approximately $300 above the advertised market rate for similar apartments at 3003 Van Ness Street.

June 28, 2016
Equity Residential files a Motion for Summary Judgment in the Office of Administrative Hearings, claiming that neither the facts of the case or the interpretation of the law are in dispute. If the motion is granted, the judge will make a decision without a hearing.

July 27, 2016
Tenant files a reply to the Housing Provider’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and also requests voluntary dismissal of the Tenant Petition because he has been advised by an attorney to seek remedy in Superior or Federal court.

July 28, 2016
Administrative law judge Vytas Varekojis Vergeer issues a final order granting voluntary dismissal of the tenant petition.

August 23, 2016
Equity Residential files a motion to lift the Drayton Stay in Landlord and Tenant Court. If the motion is successful, the Tenant will lose his case and will lose the money he has paid into escrow. The Housing Provider’s attorney, Greenstein, DeLorme and Luchs, drops the filing off at the Tenant’s apartment while the he is away for several days in Boston, but the signed document states under penalty of perjury that the motion was hand delivered to the Tenant. Because the Tenant is representing himself in court, he will now have to prepare his case very quickly because this improper filing did not provide him the required week to prepare his response.

August 30, 2016
Tenant refiles a Tenant Petition (TP 30,855) in the Office of Administrative Hearings. He also submits in Landlord and Tenant court his opposition to the Housing Provider’s Motion to lift the Drayton Stay.

September 1, 2016
Parties appear at a status hearing in Landlord and Tenant Court. Judge John Ramsey Johnson maintains the Drayton Stay.

October 10, 2016
Parties participate in OAH mediation with Administrative Law Judge Margaret Mangan. They are unable to reach an agreement.

October 25, 2016
Housing Provider files a Motion for Summary Judgment in OAH. Attached are almost 100 pages of exhibits, including documents related to the case.

November 4, 2016
Tenant files an opposition to the Housing Provider’s Motion for Summary Judgement.

November 17, 2016
Tenant files a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the DC city government, requesting rent filings by Equity Residential for 2006 to 2016.

December 6, 2016
OAH Administrative Law Judge M. Colleen Currie releases and Order Scheduling Oral Argument on the Housing Provider’s Motion for Summary Judgment, to be held on January 13, 2017.

December 30, 2016
Housing Provider files a reply to the Tenant’s Opposition to its Motion for Summary Judgment.

January 13, 2017
Parties appear in OAH before Judge M. Colleen Currie. Tenant argues that the Housing Provider’s rent filings to the Rental Accommodations Division are incorrect. Judge Currie requests that the Housing Provider and Tenant provide written opinions on whether Laches should apply to the case.

On the evening of the day of the OAH hearing, Tenant receives the first set of FOIA material that had been requested of the Rental Accommodations Division on November 17. The documents are long overdue and thus were unavailable for presentation at the morning hearing. The documents show that Equity Residential has been claiming since 2007 that the rents at 3003 Van Ness are implausibly high, suggesting that it has been using the “rent concession” scam for years. PDF files of the FOIA’ed materials are organized by year, 2006-2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 — more than 1,000 pages.

January 26, 2017
Housing Provider submits its Brief Regarding Laches, arguing that it should not apply.

February 11, 2017
Tenant submits his response to the Housing Provider’s Brief Concerning Laches.

March 3, 2017
Tenant submits a cross Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, presenting nearly 1,000 pages of rent filings obtained via FOIA. The filings show that the Housing Provider has a systematic and long-standing practice of filing “rents” that far exceed likely amounts paid for given apartments. Tenant asks the court to consider this pattern of behavior as it applies to his case. Tenant proposes to provide additional information about his claim of retaliation at a later date.

March 17, 2017
Housing Provider submits its Opposition to Tenant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

April 12, 2017
OAH Judge M. Colleen Currie releases a decision that largely grants the Housing Provider’s claims for summary judgment and denies the Tenant’s claims for Summary Judgment. Judge Currie calls for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of retaliation on May 22.

May 19, 2017
Equity Residential files a Motion to Quash the Tenant’s attempt to call property manager Avis DuVall as a witness. The motion is filed with the OAH at approximately 9:30 a.m.

May 19, 2017
OAH Administrative Law Judge Colleen Currie releases an Order Granting Motion to Quash the subpoena of Avis DuVall, denying the Tenant the ability to question her as a witness. The order is emailed at 12:43 p.m., only approximately three hours after the OAH received the petition from Equity’s attorney.

May 22-24, 2017
Three days of hearings in the Office of Administrative Hearings on the Tenant’s claim that the Housing Provider retaliated against him for his work as tenant association president and for helping other residents with “concession” leases.

July 28, 2017
Equity Residential files its closing arguments for the May 22-24 hearing on retaliation, Housing Provider’s Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

July 28, 2017
Harry Gural files his closing arguments for the May 22-24 hearing on retaliation, Post Hearing Brief and Closing Arguments.

Sept. 12, 2017
Administrative Law Judge M. Colleen Currie issues a Final Order, denying all claims of retaliation.

Sept. 28, 2017
Harry Gural files a Notice of Appeal with the DC Rental Housing Commission. The notice lists numerous serious mistakes in the ruling by the administrative law judge and flags possible violations of the OAH code of conduct.

March 4, 2019
Harry Gural files his Appellant Brief to the Rental Housing Commission.


DOCUMENTS AND EXHIBITS

Tenant’s Motion for Summary Judgment

Hearing on Retaliation

  • PX 101 - Email testimony from tenants supporting Harry Gural’s work as tenant association president.

  • PX 102 - Emails between Harry Gural and Equity Residential regarding late fees (ALJ did not allow this to be entered as evidence.)

  • PX 103 - Emails between Harry Gural and Equity Residential rental agents regarding rent negotiations

  • PX 104 - MyIDcare report stating that Harry Gural’s credit rating has changed

  • PX 105 - Equity Residential poster threatening to report to credit rating agency those who don’t pay rent

  • PX 106 - Equity Residential motion to lift the Drayton Stay in Landlord and Tenant Court

  • PX 107 - Return tickets from Boston, demonstrating that Harry Gural was not in Washington on the day Equity Residential’s attorney claimed to have served him by hand under penalty of perjury.

  • PX 108 - Floor plan of an identical apartment listed for $1,954 per month, demonstrating that Equity Residential’s claim that the rent Gural was paying is not discounted and that the “rent charged” it filed as far higher than the market price.

  • PX 109 - Equity Residential advertised apartment prices for 3003 Van Ness on April 28, 2017

  • PX 110 - Affidavit of Harry Gural regarding retaliatory actions

  • PX 111 - Verified Complaint for Possession of Real Property. Equity files to evict Harry Gural

  • PX 113 - Emails between Harry Gural and Equity Residential regarding late fees. Replaces PX 102