The problem is not that the law needs to be fixed, it's that it needs to be applied. This means strong enforcement action against false advertising, rigorous oversight by the administration and a fair application of the law by the courts.

We currently are involved in an effort by the City Council to draft legislation that will clarify that the word "rent" in the DC rental housing law means exactly what most people believe it to mean -- what you pay for the right to live somewhere. However, it's possible that the landlords' attorneys will claim that any change in the law indicates that so far the landlords have been doing nothing wrong. Moreover, the rental housing industry and its lobbyists likely will attempt to poison any legislation by adding provisions that legalize the “concessions” scam.

Given these risks, it’s important to be very careful in writing new legislation. In the meantime, government officials should first other easy steps that will have a more immediate impact on the "concessions" scam.