SEATTLE — Renters in downtown Seattle filed a class-action lawsuit accusing 10 major leasing companies of an agreement to artificially inflate the price of residential real estate in the area.
The lawsuit alleges that those who currently rent or have rented an apartment maintained by one of the 10 companies since 2010 may have paid artificially inflated rent prices.
The lawsuit states that defendants Greystar, Crow Holdings, Lincoln Property Co., FPI Management, Avenue5, Equity, Essex Property Trust, Thrive, Avalonbay Communities and Security Properties Inc colluded and shared data through RealPage, effectively inflating the prices of multifamily residential real estate in and around downtown Seattle above competitive levels.
The lawsuit alleges that, "leasing giants began to work together to increase lease prices for Seattle renters. Instead of using an independent pricing metric and supply decisions, they agreed to use a third-party pricing and data collection service, RealPage, to make unit-specific lease adjustments."
RealPage owns software that uses an algorithm and analyzes data to suggest rent prices.
The price-fixing affected the central neighborhoods of Seattle, including Capitol Hill, the Central District, South Lake Union and Queen Anne, which include most of the city’s densest neighborhoods, according to the lawsuit.
Another lawsuit was filed in October in the U.S. District County in San Diego by renters. It alleges the property management companies and Texas-based software company RealPage formed a cartel to artificially inflate rent prices and decrease the supply of multifamily real estate in violation of federal law.
While the software is used nationwide, an investigation by the non-profit newsroom ProPublica found this software is “overwhelmingly” controlled by RealPage clients in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.
ProPublica’s investigation found that "70% of apartments [in Belltown] were overseen by just 10 property managers, every single one of which used pricing software sold by RealPage."
RealPage responded to ProPublica’s follow-up article about the lawsuit saying the company “strongly denies the allegations and will vigorously defend against the lawsuit.”
To find out if you have been impacted, you can fill out the form on the Hagens Berman website, here.