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Council Acts to Protect Tenants

POSTED: 10:55 AM ET, 04/ 2/2008 by The Editors

The District Council has voted to end a policy that council members said had become an incentive for landlords to empty apartment buildings so they could convert to condominiums.

In a series published last month, the Post's Debbie Cenziper and Sarah Cohen reported that landlords had emptied more than 200 buildings in recent years, many of them converting quickly to condominiums. In its action yesterday, the council repealed the use of "vacancy exemptions," which allowed landlords to convert to condominiums without paying a hefty fee and without a tenant vote if their buildings were vacant. Under a longstanding District law, tenants have the right to vote on whether their buildings become condominiums.

In its investigation, The Post reported that some owners had refused to repair buildings, letting them deteriorate until tenants left. In other cases, landlords pressured tenants to accept offers of payment in exchange for moving out.
As a result, clases between landlords and tenants had sprung up at buildings across the city.

Days after publication of the series, a fire destroyed one of the buildings where tenants and landlords had been in a longstanding dispute. The 85-unit complex had been cited for thousands of code violations. The cause of the fire has not been determined. The owners of that building had also purchased several others in Washington that had been racked by similar conditions and disputes with tenants. Owners said they had treated tenants fairly and repaired buildings.

By The Editors |  April 2, 2008; 10:55 AM ET D.C. Region
Previous: Like-Minded Advocates | Next: City to Sue Landlords

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