Strengthening Rent Law

Thank you for Eric M. Weiss's article "D.C. Council May Overhaul City's Rent-Control Policies" (Nov. 3).

After being weakened 20 years ago, the District's rent stabilization law has not been stabilizing rents.

This is because the law allows landlords to raise rents and/or rent ceilings for new tenants to levels at least 12 percent above rents paid by previous tenants or to the highest level of a comparable unit in the building. These provisions have rewarded owners of buildings with high turnover. As a consequence, the city has lost thousands of affordable rental units each year.

A package of landlord/tenant bills before the D.C. Council would eliminate these provisions, allow owners to recover reasonable costs incurred during turnover and continue to guarantee a minimum 12 percent rate of return on their investments. The legislative package also would protect the right of tenants to organize and to obtain information possessed by their landlord.

Some tenant advocates argue that the rent stabilization reforms pending at the council are small changes at the margin. True, more could and needs to be done. But the proposed changes strike at the heart of what is wrong with the law and are far from small. The proposed reforms would effectively return the law to its original purpose: to enable workers in Washington, such as firefighters, teachers, police officers and other municipal workers, to have affordable rents in the city in which they work.

Kevin B. Fitzgerald

Treasurer, Capitol Park Plaza

Tenants Association (Ward 6)

Jonathan Strong

Treasurer, Brandywine

Tenants Association (Ward 3)

Brad McMahon

Park Plaza Tenants

Association (Ward 1)