Residents of two apartment buildings on Quincy Street NE, in the Turkey Thicket neighborhood, have banded together to protest 75 percent rent increases for their one-bedroom apartments.
Rents for the eight apartments in the 705 and 905 Quincy St. NE buildings, which were built in 1937, will increase from $101 to $175 a month, effective April 1, according to letters from the landlords' attorneys, a tenant said. Utilities are not included in the rent.
"If this is legal, then we have no rights. The landlord can raise the rents again in two months if he wants to . . .," said Virginia Kingsley, a Catholic University graduate student and a Turkey Thicket resident for four years.
The owner of the building at 705 Quincy is Nancy Eakin Brodsky and the owner of 905 Quincy is William R. Carleton, according to deeds on the building filed with the D.C. Recorder of Deeds. The two owners meet all the requirements to make their rental units exempt from coverage by the District rent control law, including the filing of a statement saying they own no other rental property in the District, said a spokeman at the Rental Accomodations Office. Nancy Brodsky and William Carleton, however, are the wife and brother of Mark Brodsky and John Carleton, attorneys who together have extensive holdings of rental property in the District, according to city government tax records.
Mark Brodsky said in a telephone interview that he and John Carleton are attorneys representing Brodsky's wife and Carleton's brother, William Carleton.
Buildings are exempt from coverage by the D.C. rent control law if they have four units or less, are owned by four or fewer persons, if the owners have no other rental property in D.C. and if the owners file with the city's rent administrator a claim of exemption from coverage under the Rental Accomodations Act. Each of the Quincy Street buildings has four units; each has one registered owner, who says he owns no other D.C. property and who has filed exemption claims, according to the city's Rental Accomodation Office.
Residents of the two buildings, who formed the Turkey Thicket Tenants Association after they got the rent increase notices, have decided to "stick together and fight this," said Ann Healey, one of the tenants. "We don't want to leave the area. We love it here."
The tenants filed a complaint about the increase with the Rental Accomodations Office this week and also met with an assistant to City Council Member William Spaulding to discuss the rent hikes, Kingsley said.
Kingsley said the rent increases would be a hardship for the tenants, all of whom are Catholic University graduate students. Most work full time and go to school, she said, adding that they "might have to get new jobs or second jobs or just quit school."
The Turkey Thicket neighborhood, named after a playground at 10th Street and Michigan Avenue NE, is populated mainly by university students, elderly people and low-income families. Most apartment rents in the area range from $100 to $125 a month, Kingsley said.
"I'll admit the rent is steep, but on the open market - if there wasn't any rent control - the rent would have risen by now to $165 or $170 a month," said Walter A. Brown III, who manages the two buildings for Nancy Brodsky and William Carleton, as he did for the previous owner, Lawrence Mills. Sale of the buildings became final Jan. 30, Brown said.
The present rent of $101 per month is "100 percent under what the free market rents would be for similar accommodations," said Mark Brodsky, husband for building owner Nancy Eakin Brodksy. "The new owners have incurred heavy mortgage obligations and additional property tax burdens which have to be paid out of the rents . . . We felt it necessary to advise our clients to make the increase in one jump because we don't know what the City Council will do next (about rent control)," he said.
Brown said that the former owner did not have any mortgages on the properties and that his maintenance costs were low. Brown acted as the previous owner's agent in the sale of the buildings.
"The only way I could sell the buildings was if they would be exempt from rent control," Brown said. "Nancy Brodsky and William Carleton are investors. This was set up on my advice, exempt from rent control. They have a mortgage and insurance to pay.
"The price was so low before rent control that these people (the tenants) are just now having to face reality. They should realize that they've had a good deal for so long."
"What bothers us is that there doesn't seem to be any protection at all from getting another increase," countered tenant Ann Healey. "Even if you adjust your lifestyle to meet it, how many more can you stand?"
The tenants received notice of the rent increase three days after the new Metro subway station opened in Brookland.Brown said that the presence of the new Metro station "had nothing to do with the sale and rent increase. It was coincidental."
Kingsley said that the tenants in the Quincy Street buildings have only month-to-month leases, adding that use of these short-term leases was a standard practice by landlords in the Catholic University area because of the number of students who need apartments for only an eight- or nine month period. Brown said, however, that the lack of longer term leases in the two buildings had nothing to do with the moving patterns of the students. He said that he did not give leases on property any more because "when you're authorized a rent increase you have to take it."