THE BAIT AND SWITCH

Some large landlords in Washington D.C. are tricking tenants into paying much larger rent increases than allowed by law. This costs individual residents from several $100 to several $1,000 dollars each and every year. Tens of thousands of DC residents may be affected.

The scam circumvents the city's rent stabilization law, which limits annual rent increases in some buildings (those constructed in 1975 or earlier with 5 or more units) to 2% plus inflation in most cases. The law is designed to protect tenants from large, sudden rent increases.

The trick depends on a classic bait and switch. Here’s how it works:

  • You see an apartment advertised online for a reasonable price. You check it out and decide to take it. However, when you meet with the rental agent to sign the lease, at the last minute you notice that the rent actually listed is much more than the amount advertised – from several $100 to over $1,500 more per month. The rental agent tells you to just ignore the amount on the lease: "Oh, it’s just a formality required by DC housing laws, pay no attention to that detail." The agent tells you not to worry because you will get a “concession,” which is supposedly a discount, and thus you’re told you will only pay what was advertised. When you ask what the rent will be next year, the agent tells you not to worry because the company ALWAYS gives a big “concession.”

You sign the lease – big mistake. You’ll later regret this, just keep reading.

NEXT: The Trap