Harry Gural, founder of Fair Rent DC and president of the Van Ness South Tenants Association, today sent a fourth letter today to Mayor Muriel Bowser, requesting that she take strong action to investigate and speak out about the rent "concession" scam. The Bowser administration has not responded to the organization's first three emails and Gural's in-person discussion with the Mayor in October.
VAN NESS SOUTH TENANTS ASSOCIATION
March 15, 2018
Mayor Muriel Bowser
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mayor Bowser,
On the occasion of your State of the District Address, I am writing again to request that you take public action against the rent “concessions” scam that likely has cost District residents tens of millions of dollars.
I am the president of the tenants’ association representing the residents of 3003 Van Ness, the building that is the focus of Attorney General Karl Racine’s suit against Equity Residential for false advertising and effective circumvention of DC rent stabilization laws. I have helped over 100 residents fight demands for very large rent increases. I discovered via FOIA information suggesting that the same scam is used in other buildings. Other sources suggest that many large corporate landlords may be involved. This issue deserves an immediate and thorough investigation.
I have asked for help from members of your administration, including high-level housing officials, for almost two years. When I talked to you at length at an ANC-3 meeting at UDC on Oct. 17, you promised that your administration would quickly respond to my request to investigate by examining easily available city records. Sample records in my possession show that one company is filing “rents” to the city of well over $3,000 for a modest one-bedroom apartment in Van Ness – an impossibly high figure. I sent you additional information and repeated my request for action in three subsequent letters. Five months later, I have received absolutely no response.
In addition to the Attorney General’s suit, a recent decision in favor of the tenant by the Rental Housing Commission in the case of Gabriel Fineman vs. Smith Property Holdings (a subsidiary of Equity Residential) confirms my claim that the “concessions” scam violates DC law. Other tenants (including me) have pending tenant petitions. A class action case has been filed. Another case was filed in Superior Court. In addition, I continue to receive pleas for help from tenants every day.
Every month more and more DC tenants get caught in the scam and end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more in rent than the law permits. This drives up the cost of housing in the District overall. The issue should be of highest concern to your administration.
Nevertheless, there has been complete silence from you and other city officials on this issue. I urge you to speak out about the rent “concessions” scam because doing so will help thousands of new tenants avoid the trap. I also repeat my request for you to instruct your administration to review easily available rent filings that will reveal the scope of the “concessions” scandal.
President, Van Ness South Tenants Association
Founder, Fair Rent DC