By emptying buildings and taking advantage of a provision known as a “vacancy exemption,” landlords can avoid the tenant vote and the tax and turn rental apartments into condominiums. City officials have granted the exemptions even when government records chronicled widespread evictions and buildings riddled with code violations.

In the past four years, nearly three-quarters of the landlords who received permission to begin converting apartment buildings into condominiums did so through a vacancy exemption, not a vote by tenants—saving $16 million in condominium conversion fees while families across the city lost their homes.

“The exemption is providing every incentive for a landlord to be aggressive, in some instances bordering on actually being criminal,” said Joel Cohn, legislative director with the District’s Office of the Tenant Advocate. “You have a real concerted effort to get rid of tenants.”

The Post reports several instances of outright thuggishness from landlords, who say they can’t make repairs without jacking up rents or converting to condos. But the paper says the law allows landlords to ask the city to let them raise rents to cover repair costs—when their return on investment falls below a healthy 12 percent. Just six of more than 200 applied, as the district’s raging condo boom inflated prices.

More like this, please.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at