The District of Columbia rent control commission recommended yesterday that the City Council pass emergency legislation granting landlords rent increases ranging from 2 per cent to 10 per cent.
The commission proposed that the increases be automatic except in buildings where landlords have raised rents within the last six months. In those cases, landlords would have to deduct the amount of the increases they already have begun charging tenants from whatever increases the landlords are allowed under the proposed new schedule.
Approximately 150,000 apartment units in the city would be affected if the City Council goes along with the rent control commission's recommendations. Nadine Winter, chairman of the Council's housing committee, could not be reached for comment last night.
The commission, which held hearings last January to determine the amount of operating cost increases borne by landlords over the past year, recommended that:
Two per cent increases be allowed for apartments where landlords provide no utilities or heat.
Seven per cent increases be granted to landlords who provide heat and hot water but no other utilities.
Eight per cent increases be allowed where the rent covers heat, hot water and electricity.
Nine per cent increases be granted where the rent covers heat, hot water, electricity and cooking fuel.
Ten per cent increases be allowed where the landlord provides all utilities including air conditioning.
It was understood yesterday that the two tenant representatives on the nine-member rent control commission agreed relunctantly to the proposed rent increases because they recognized that utility and other uncontrollable costs have risen substantially over the past six to eight months.
Raymond Howar, a landlord member of the commission, said that "as a landlord commissioner, I think the recommendations were the best compromise we could work out."
"As a property owner," Howar said, "the recommendations are too little, too late." Nevertheless, Howar said he will support the recommendations before the City Council.
According to Paul D. Crumrine, attorney for the rent control commission, the decision to recommend the rent increases came about because of an influx of landlord hardship petitions seeking rent increases for individual properties.
When a landlord's rate of return on a building falls below 8 per cent, the landlord is allowed to petition the commission for an increase. This process often takes six months or more because of the number of hardship petitions and because the commission staff has so few hearing examiners.
The District's rent control law has been controversial almost from the day it was enacted by the City Council because landlords are not allowed to count their debt service costs as part of their expenses.
The law also contains no provision for allowing landlords to "pass through" to tenants unavoidable operating cost increases for such items as heat and other utilities.