Fair Rent DC asks Mayor Bowser to help investigate the rent "concession" scam

Fair Rent DC founder Harry Gural today sent a letter to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, asking her to direct the Department of Housing and Community Development to share information regarding the large housing providers that file what appear to be abnormally high "rents" with the city -- a sign that they likely use the rent "concession" scam. Along with the letter, he sent 22 pages of evidence suggesting that a major housing provider reports unusually high "rents" to the city.


October 19, 2017

Mayor Muriel Bowser
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

Dear Mayor Bowser,

Thank you for taking my question about the rent “concession” issue at the ANC-3 meeting on Oct. 17 and for taking the time to discuss the issue with me briefly.

I am writing to ask your help fighting rent “concession” leases, the method I described briefly to you by which some large housing providers use false advertising and deceptive leases to circumvent DC rent stabilization laws. Tens of thousands of Washington residents may be affected and it likely costs them tens of millions of dollars.

At the ANC meeting, I asked whether you would agree to instruct the Department of Housing and Community Development to produce information that would help us understand the scope of the problem. I have obtained records from the Rental Accommodations Division via a FOAI request revealing that Equity Residential appears to substantially inflate the numbers it reports as “rents” in its official filings (attached). Equity uses those false filings as the basis for rent increases, demanding amounts that can exceed $1,500 per month. It announces these to tenants on a form produced by the RAD, making it appear that the amounts are sanctioned by the city (attached). More information about how this works can be found at the website I create to educate the public about the issue, Fair Rent DC.

I respectfully request that you instruct the DHCD and its RAD to produce the names of corporations which appear to file “rents” that vastly exceed the advertised rents. Besides Equity Residential, there is evidence that Avalon and Bernstein also use “concession” leases. It would not require extensive research by the DHCD to find out what other major companies file “rents” with the RAD that vastly exceed market prices. A shortcut would be review the client list of the law firm Greenstein, DeLorme and Luchs, which apparently engineered the “concession” scheme.

Every day, new DC tenants unwittingly sign “concession” leases that obligate them to pay very large rent increases that exceed what is permitted by law. Every month, it is likely that tens of thousands of residents are forced to pay more in rent than the law allows. This very serious problem threatens the affordability of Washington, D.C. I ask your help in bringing an end to this predatory practice.

Sincerely yours,

Harry Gural
President, Van Ness South Tenants Association
Founder, Fair Rent DC