WASHINGTON, D.C. — Government watchdog Accountable.US sent letters to nine state Attorneys General this week encouraging them to look into whether major rental companies recently sued for illegal rent-pricing fixing in Washington D.C. may also be engaging in the same behavior in their states where the companies also run thousands of rental properties. The lawsuit brought by the District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb accuses 14 rental companies of wrongdoing including AvalonBay, Equity Residential, Mid-America Apartments, and Camden Property Trust. In the letter, Accountable.US raises concern that these companies’ alleged price-fixing practices may extend beyond the D.C. border after previously documenting their histories of profiteering or misconduct at the expense of struggling renters. *CLICK TO SEE EACH LETTER VERSION: [Arizona; California; Colorado; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Washington]
The D.C. attorney general’s lawsuit follows the Biden administration’s announced actions to improve fairness in the rental market, including a Renters Bill of Rights and a crackdown on abusive junk fees in rental housing to lower costs for renters across the country.
EXCERPTS OF LETTER FROM ACCOUNTABLE.US PRESIDENT CAROLINE CICCONE:
AvalonBay, Equity Residential, Mid-America Apartments, and Camden Property Trust are among the companies involved in the lawsuit with ties to Colorado that we are especially concerned may be engaging in price-fixing elsewhere given their troubling histories of profiteering and misconduct. In recent years, Accountable.US has documented how too many corporations are motivated by greed and are price-gouging consumers. And the landlord industry is often among the worst offenders. It is critical that enforcers of consumer protection and antitrust laws like yourself stand up for consumers instead of corporations that profit from rising prices.
As we have documented, these companies have shown their recent rent hikes were based on greed, not need, after reporting massive increased profits over the previous year while generously rewarding their executives. Now the same companies fueling the housing affordability crisis have allegedly stooped to illegal price-fixing and collusion to pad their profits – making matters worse for many struggling renters in Washington D.C.
The question is: If these companies were willing to allegedly engage in rent fixing surrounded by federal and local regulators in the nation’s capital, why not in Colorado as well? In our view, it is worth looking into whether Colorado tenants dealing with these same companies are not also victims of illegal practices that further drive housing costs through the roof.
As you know, the U.S. Labor Department’s latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) report found that shelter was by far “the largest contributor” to inflation in September. We know corporate profiteering played a major role in that. You may be able to answer whether illegal price collusion also contributed to the problem in Colorado. If you agree this matter merits a serious review, we look forward to hearing about the results of your office’s findings.